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The City of Tonawanda is embarking this month on a nearly yearlong process of updating assessments on its more than 6,500 properties.

From now until November, representatives from an appraisal firm hired by the city will be out viewing properties from the street, said City Assessor David Marrano.

“We review every property in the City of Tonawanda – residential, commercial, vacant land,” said Marrano. “We use our various modeling techniques to try and come up with what we feel is the best estimate of market value.”

In the first week of February, the city will inform property owners by mail of their new assessments. Residents can then challenge their assessments in an informal process and will be notified of changes by May 1. Residents still unhappy with their assessments can make a formal challenge in May, with final decisions rendered in June, said Marrano.

About 5 percent of property owners used the informal challenge process the last time the city updated its assessments in 2008, he said. Residents should not expect a lot of “drastic changes,” he said.

“Our real estate market has seen some increases, but they’ve been fairly steady,” he added. “We never had the highs and lows that you saw in other parts of the country.”

The city hired the firm of Emminger Newton Pigeon Magyar to visit each house, looking from the right of way, for conditions or external factors that may affect its market value.

“We only go on people’s property or in their property unless we’re invited,” Marrano said.

While a property’s value determines the amount of taxes owed, Marrano stressed that assessors don’t set tax rates. Their only job, he said, is to make sure assessed value is what the property could reasonably expect to fetch in a sale.

“The tax levy created by the city, by the School Board is a big pie,” he said. “My job is to fairly split the size of the pie. I have no control on the size of the pie, though.”

The state, he said, recommends an assessment update every four to six years.

email: jpopiolkowski@buffnews.com