News10NBC Investigates: Here’s how the city did its historic reassessment and why 60% is the sweet spot

News10NBC Investigates: City of Rochester tax reassessments

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The City of Rochester is trying to explain how it reassessed thousands of homes even though many owners still can’t believe their new number.

You can’t blame some of the owners. One woman on a fixed income saw her home assessment go from $57,000 to $134,000.

So, we went to City Hall to talk to the assessment managers about it.

City Budget Director Suzanne Warren said the sweet spot is 60%.

If a reassessment increases from 1% to 60%, the homeowner will likely pay the same about of property tax or less.

If a reassessment increased more than 60%, the homeowner would likely pay more tax.

City Assessor Mike Zazzara walked me through the city’s recent home sale website. It tracks every sale for the last three years. The red indicates a 1-family home.

“Here’s a sale on Hazelwood Terrace. It sold for $175,000,” he said.
The city uses this to this to reassess homes that didn’t sell. He also showed me the city’s map of what it calls valuation neighborhoods.

“And this assures that we’re only pulling sales for the reassessment from your particular value neighborhood,” Zazzara said.
So, homes in the 19th Ward don’t get compared to homes in Charlotte.

But despite this data and the use of industry-wide reassessment tools, the letters people got with their new home values shocked them. In Sunday’s Rochester in Focus, News10NBC’s Lynette Adams had two homeowners who got double digit increases.

Miriam Cortes, Rochester homeowner: “The proposed for this year is going to be $134,600.”
Lynette Adams: “From $57,000 last year.”
Miriam Cortes: “Yes.”

The letters Miriam Cortes and Harolda Wilcox got said they would pay an extra $500 in city property taxes a year. That’s $60 dollars a month.

“To have to get that extra $60 out of my budget, my pay isn’t going up,” Wilcox said.
Berkeley Brean: “To her you would say?”
Enza Mineo, Rochester city Deputy Assessor: “I would say just let the process play out.”

Enza Mineo is the city’s deputy assessor. She says the letters are estimates and don’t include tax exemptions that many homeowners get.

Berkeley Brean: “So that could change?”
Enza Mineo: “It could, yeah.”

City Council member Willie Lightfoot is calling for a two-year delay on the assessments.

“We should have done a better job of rolling this thing out, to have more community input,” Lightfoot said on Rochester in Focus.
Berkeley Brean: “Could you pump the breaks for a couple of years?”
Enza Mineo: “Is the market going to pump its breaks?… I speak for myself; I don’t think we realized ourselves the magnitude of this change and how people would be affected because it was such a huge change. But here we are and it’s still has to be done and delaying it is not going to make it better.”

The rule of thumb is if assessments go up, tax rates go down.

The city budget director says if the reassessment stays the same and the city collects the same amount of money – and the city’s tax levy has remained flat for the last four years – the tax rate could go down 37 percent.