We may feel our taxes are too high or the money government collects is not well spent. But on the whole, we Americans are willing to pay our fair share without protest for as long as we have confidence in the basic fairness of the system.
For taxes we pay to support schools and local government, our government-imposed property assessments go the very heart of the matter.
This comes to mind because as springtime arrives so do the annual notices to owners of the value of their property on which local taxes will be levied. The notices start a citizen-based process centered on a Board of Assessment Review designed to ensure that everyone is taxed fairly.
More than ever before, property owners have at their fingertips the information they need to be an active part of the process and to determine for themselves the fairness of assessing in their towns or city.
For that, we very much can thank the professional assessors who work to ensure information is up to date and easily accessible - at your fingertips on line. In Chautauqua County, the complete assessment rolls are available at www.co.chautauqua.ny.us under the Real Property Tax department. In Cattaraugus County, the tax rolls are online at ww2.cattco.org under the Treasurer's Office.
The goal of assessing is to determine the current market value of each piece of property so that everyone pays their fair share of the tax levy based on what they own. Assessors themselves recognize that the system is not entirely foolproof. That is, they know, for example, that if some fool overpays for a piece of property, the assessed value placed of the rest of the property in a neighborhood might be artificially high. And so they encourage you to examine the assessment document you will receive in early May carefully and to not hesitate to follow the directions to appeal it if you feel the value assigned to your property is wrong.
Occasionally people blame assessors when they feel their property taxes are too high. But, as you know, if the assessor is fairly and equitably determining the market value of everyone's property, the blame is misplaced.
You have a part in ensuring the integrity of the system.
Do not shirk your responsibility - pay attention to what is going on.