LOCKPORT – The Town Board learned Monday that the town assessor wants to carry out a townwide property revaluation next year and that the town’s health insurance premiums will rise by 40 percent, effective immediately.
Assessor Jill Lederhouse said she will carry out the reassessment unless the board tells her not to. The board did not block her plans.
“Jill has a thankless job. She does a great job, and I believe we have to support her,” Councilwoman Patricia Dufour said.
Lederhouse said there have been a rash of home sales for prices well above the assessed valuations of the houses in question. She cited a home on Purdy Road, assessed at $198,000, that recently sold for $295,000.
Many other sales have come in $20,000 to $40,000 over the assessment, she said.
Lederhouse hasn’t been idle in trying to keep the assessment rolls current. In 2012, the valuations were changed for 2,400 of the town’s nearly 7,500 parcels, about 5,600 of which are residential.
This year, Lederhouse altered about 1,100 assessments and faced only about 40 formal grievances before the Board of Assessment Review. Another 80 property owners complained informally.
But while some parts of the town are showing a renewed housing boom, others have had very little sale activity. Lederhouse said.
She said newer homes are selling well and thus are often assessed at values higher than comparable older homes.
Town Supervisor Marc R. Smith said that if the town allows assessments to fall below 100 percent of full value, the value of STAR and other tax exemptions falls.
On the other hand, Lederhouse said the state will pay the town $5 per parcel for a townwide revaluation.
“We have to look at everything, not that everything is going to change,” the assessor said.
“The important thing is that your whole process is open,” Councilman Mark C. Crocker told Lederhouse. “That’s important, because there is a distrust.”
On the health insurance front, Smith said he was told Monday by the town’s insurance broker, Crown Benefits Group, formerly Flexcare, that the cost of health insurance premiums for the town’s roughly 50 employees will be $757,263 for the 12 months that started Saturday. That’s an increase of 40.3 percent, or $217,820, from last year’s rate.
“The major cause of the increase is some large claims we had,” Smith said. “That’s why you have insurance, to take care of people.”
“This is a killer,” Smith said. But he vowed that it won’t result in the imposition of a general town tax, which Lockport has avoided thanks to surpluses. Instead, other areas of the 2014 budget will be reduced.
“Regardless, we would find a way to cut $200,000,” Smith pledged.