Portland to move forward with data collection

BROCTON – A full update of property data in the town of Portland is expected following a recent meeting of the Portland Town Council.

Representatives from KLW Group, a specializing appraisal and assessment firm located in Buffalo, were on hand to report to the councilmen on their proposal to update the town’s records of properties, and potentially revaluate all town properties.

The town has discussed ways to streamline how properties are recorded to make sure that state property officials have accurate data on file for the town; potentially avoid another collision between the town’s equalization rate and the portion of school taxes that Portland tax payers are billed.

KLW Group Principal Robert Koszarek told the council, “There are a number of options. We can start collecting data now, and then in time, if you wanted to move forward and exercise the option of a full revaluation and move on from there. Understand that we try to be as flexible as we can for towns as far as allowing you to stay under the 2 percent tax cap. We could spread out the billing over a number of years.”

Town Supervisor Dan Schrantz asked Portland’s assessor Dea Anna Wheeler, who was also present, if she would be able to keep the records up to date, once a full data collection was finished.

“Yes, once the records are updated.”

Councilman Al Valentin asked who would be doing the data collection should the town resolve to retain them.

Koszarek noted that all of his staffers are fully trained, including one appraiser that specializes in agriculture valuation, and that they would be working in teams of two people to conduct door to door visits to homeowners to collect information.

“Door to door visits are the best way to get information from the property owner and gain an understanding about the property. We get a variety of different participation levels from people but we all look at property the same and work together and are subjective in putting the inventory together. All of our appraisers have extensive experience in commercial, residential and agricultural properties in Chautauqua County,” stated Koszarek.

The data collection would entail taking the existing property record card from the town’s files and updating what is currently on the property.

The last data collection for the town was done in the 1980’s, from when Koszarek noted “a lot has changed in the real estate market, both positive and negative.”

Schrantz asked the group members if the town were to do a complete revaluation and have an equalization rate set at 100 percent, if it would affect the shift of any further tax burden to Portland payers.

Koszarek replied that he didn’t know if there was a definitive way to determine that.

Commercial Principal Gregory Klauk noted, “In the two parts that are calculated when you determine your tax rate, you want to make sure that in assessment your half is right. But that question should really be posed to your office of real property services representative, they’re the only one that can accurately answer that. And I’ve yet to meet any of them that have made it simple enough to understand. I don’t think even the statisticians in Albany that have created this system could answer that, and there’s no way for us to answer it.”

The town council resolved to retain the services of KLW to begin the data collection at a cost of $128,700 spread out over a three year payback period.

According to Schrantz, if the town council agreed to exercise the option of a revaluation, they would need to advertise for competitive bids and obtain additional price quotes from other vendors before selecting KLW based on competitive bid pricing requirements. KLW came in as the low bidder for the data collection process.

KLW representatives noted that they will be doing an independent outreach to Portland property owners before the data collection is scheduled to begin. The council will reconvene on June 11 at 7 p.m.