Checking both the Niagara County Republican and the Niagara County Democratic party websites as I periodically do, I came across a biography of Jerry Mosey and his platform as a candidate for the Niagara County Legislature's 12th District. In his statement, Mosey states that concerning property taxes, in the “2007 county budget, Lewiston’s rate of increase was around 3.3%, higher than almost anywhere else in the county. That’s unacceptable, plain and simple.”
Here's the problem with that statement: It isn’t that plain and simple. Mosey apparently doesn’t possess even a rudimentary understanding of how taxes are levied in this county. Nor does he possess a basic understanding of equalization rates. Now, that's okay for the average person. But if you are a candidate for office, you damn well better have a basic comprehension of these topics before you open your mouth. Mosey obviously does not.
Niagara County’s tax rate went down this year. Niagara County’s tax levy also went down. So why did Lewiston’s County tax rate go up? Is it because the County decided that Lewiston should pay more as some sort of vindictive plot against the residents of Lewiston? Of course not.
The reality is that the County tax rate went up for the residents of Lewiston because Lewiston does not assess its properties at full value. Lewiston assesses its properties lower than other municipalities, so in order to keep the amounts of school and county taxes being paid by taxpayers across the County equitable, the amounts need to be equalized or adjusted and Lewiston ends up paying more as a percentage by virtue of its refusal to assess at 100%.
If taxes weren’t adjusted, a municipality could say “all properties in our town are worth $1.00 because we say so.” In that scenario, all property owners in that town would pay school and county taxes as a percentage of $1.00 while everybody else assessed at full value would pay the bulk of the tax burden. Fortunately, the Office of Real Property Services is a lot sharper than Jerry Mosey and refuses to allow this to happen.
If Mosey wants to fix his problem with the laws of percentages and their impact on Lewiston, he needs to take it up with Lewiston Supervisor Fred Newlin, not by making misleading and inaccurate remarks as a candidate for office.