It was a moment Amherst property owners were warned was coming. They were told to be calm, to exhibit understanding - to believe that their taxes weren't going to go through the roof.
But the reaction was anything but once the notices starting arriving last week telling plenty of residents that the value of their property had skyrocketed.
Now the horror stories are rolling in, one after another. Values jumping 30 percent, 70 percent and more for no discernible reason. So many residents jammed the town's assessment web site that it crashed and only started working more consistently on Monday. Angry emails are flying. Blogs and message boards are full of outrage.
Here's the problem as I see it (And by the way, I live in Amherst): Trying to understand how these new assessments are determined is practically impossible. They are based on what those working for the KLW Group (which was hired to do the town's new assessments) see when they look at the exterior of the property. They try to find "comparable" properties in your neighborhood to establish your new value, but how can anyone determine true comparability without going inside a home? And when assessors et al can't find recent comparable sales in your neighborhood, they try to find a different comparable neighborhood. How is that even possible?
Is the whole process more guess work than anything else? As one angry property owner told the Town Board on Monday, if that is the case, "Houston, we've got a problem."
Especially when you live in one of the highest taxed state's in the nation.
--- Niki Cervantes