Gowanda upset with tax bills

GOWANDA – Resi-dents packed the Village Hall Tuesday night to complain about their tax bills increasing by hundreds of dollars. Many residents saw an increase in their tax bills due to the elimination of the village assessor.

The Gowanda Village Board approved last year to eliminate the assessor position and adopt the town of Collins and Persia assessments. Mayor Heather McKeever said with the assessment values from the town, some tax bills have increased while others have decreased.

“The reality is your assessment you always had for town, school and county (taxes) is now your village assessment. If your assessment for the town of Collins is $80,000, but the assessment for the village has always been $40,000 … you’re going to have a higher tax bill. On the flip side, there were many people with an assessment that was $120,000 from the village, but their assessment was $80,000 for the town. For those of you who are here tonight paying more, for every $100 you’re paying more, somebody else paid more over the past 32 years. We’re just trying to make it fair,” McKeever said.

Resident Janet Vogtli asked why the village did not warn residents prior to receipt of their tax bills. She said the village “assured people that (taxes) would not go up as high.” She said the board should have given warnings to residents about the high increase.

“You assured people that (taxes) would not go up as high. Why didn’t you put something in the tax bills that they were going to go from a lower assessment to a higher assessment?” Vogtli asked.

Business owner Tim Noecker said his tax bill increased 800 percent from last year’s bill. He jokingly asked the village board if they would accept hot dogs and change as payment for his bill. Resident Ralph Hill asked if the taxes were to only increase 3 percent, why his bill increased over 20 percent.

Village Treasurer Cindy Schilling encouraged residents to look at the town and village assessments and ask themselves what they would sell their homes for. She explained the village board is trying to shift the burden from those who have been over-assessed to those who have been under-assessed.

“Because this is the first year we did this, it was not an easy transition, I would like to take this time to apologize if we weren’t more forthcoming … and armed with you with more information. To be honest with you, we didn’t know what to expect either,” Schilling said.

The village encouraged all residents to bring their current tax bills along with last year’s bill to the village hall to discuss their bills. The town assessors are committed to working with residents to find tax exemptions and credits for those who cannot afford taxes. Due to the increase, the village will also be implementing a partial payment schedule this year. Residents are encouraged to pay what they can prior to the July 1 deadline then pay the rest before October. Any unpaid balance past July 1 will be subject to a late fee as listed on the bill.

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