Outraged Golisano faces South Bristol town board on Grievance Day

May 23, 2018 12:30 AM

          Rochester area billionaire Paychex founder Tom Golisano took his complaints about property tax assessments to the town of South Bristol Tuesday night, with a headline complaint about geese, and goose droppings, at his Canandaigua lake house.

“When there is 100 to 200 of them, together, that’s a real health problem, because they do defecate 2 pounds a day.”

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Displaying a life-sized plastic goose, Golisano spoke before the South Bristol Board of Assessment Review on the town’s Grievance Day day for hearing disputes on property tax valuations.  He told the board that frequent infestations of geese that sometimes numbered in the hundreds left vast amounts of droppings on his property and diminished his ability to use the property and therefore its value.  He demanded that the town help keep the birds away or give him a corresponding break on his property taxes.

“For somebody paying $140,000 in real estate taxes, to have their property called ‘a mess’ is pretty disheartening but yet I get no help,” he told the board.

Bristol Town Supervisor Dan Marshall disagreed, insisting the situation at Golisano’s spread was no different from any other property owner dealing with wildlife, or a farmer dealing with deer. 

"We don't consider any type of wildlife issue on private land as a town issue,” Marshall said.  “It's really up to the property owner to resolve that."       
But Golisano’s biggest grievance was over the property tax assessment system itself which he claimed wildly overestimates, or underestimates, property values and leaves homeowners with correspondingly improper tax bills.  He claimed his research in the areas around Albany, Rochester and Syracuse and in Onandoga and Erie counties revealed that 70% of property tax assessments missed the correct valuations, either by being too high or too low, by more than 10%.  “What’s going on is sick,” he exclaimed in his comments to the board.  “There is no level of county taxation like real estate taxation. Income tax is a very exact science. Sales tax is a very exact science. I don’t know what this is.”  
    Members of the review board said they may well agree with him but that the assessment system is a state issue well out of their purview. 
    “You’re talking to the wrong people Mr. Golisano,” said Henry Savage, Chairman of the Board of Assessment Review.  “There are people in Albany who have a much higher clearance level than I do.  And right at the top of it is our governor.”
    Golisano didn’t dispute that but called on board members to speak up about their own objections to the assessment system’s flaws.  He also gestured to the large crowd of media representatives present saying “these people are going to tell this community what's going on.”
    His campaign for assessment reform has a website Tax My Property Fairly and Golisano said he had spoken with several state legislative leaders including Senate Speaker Carl Heastie, assembly minority leader Brian Kolb and Rochester area senator Rich Funke and expressed hope the attention he has generated would galvanize voters.   “We get enough people talking about problem,” he said, “talking about it with their legislators, maybe we can get something done."
    Members of the Board of Assessment Review promised to consider Golisano’s request for review of his assessment and decide if his assessment should be altered.



Charles Molineaux

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