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The City Loves Your House! Um…

by on December 8, 2009

If the rents increased organically in an improving area, class warfare warriors would moan about how gentrification was driving out the proles.  Alternately, when the government prices out the very people who toiled to made city sections livable, it’s apparently equality in practice.  Many Buffalonians are discovering that it’s unpleasant to be told that your property is valuable when City Hall does the telling:

Twice as many city property owners are facing higher assessed values on their homes when compared to a year ago, and it could mean increases in tax bills for thousands of people.

But that means more revenue for the city!  Wait, where does it come from?  And will the funds disappear if people get fed up with the new rates?  Eh, who cares?  The important lesson is that constant mediocrity means never having to worry about a high fall:

Assessors said the reason for the higher values is that Buffalo didn’t experience the real estate bust that socked many other regions.

A balloon that fails to inflate will never burst.  Of course, same limp balloon is pretty much worthless.

It’s too bad Buffalo isn’t emulating its residents.  Specifically, everyone is scrimping during the Not-Very-Good Recession.  But the city is not only refusing to take part: they’re sucking up some of the meager reserves amassed by locals.  Sigh, and the Grinchy Scrooges are shamelessly doing so right before Christmas, too.

Unfortunately, those who hike taxes never account for how humans will react to getting soaked.  By tweaking so many rates upward so vastly, Buffalo is doing what it can to discourage enterprising individuals from participating in urban renaissance.  As for those already in, the Byron Brown administration is doing what it can to punish inhabitants who assumed risk by settling within the city limits.  But don’t you dare complain about helping to make neighborhoods appealingly lively.  Instead, do your part, citizen:

“Assessments have everything to do with making sure that all property owners pay a fair share of the tax burden,” Kennedy said.

When anyone governmental employee from the president down to the local assessment and taxation commissioner begins talking about “fairness,” people should reflexively check to ensure their wallets haven’t gotten lighter or gone missing.  Their ensuing reaction of the fleeced may sadly be to bail:

Theodore Portman’s home on St. James Place in the Elmwood Village would see a 27 percent increase in assessed value if he’s unsuccessful in challenging it during a grievance process. When he bought the property in 2001, he said it was assessed at $100,000. His new assessment would be $210,000.

“It’s driving people away,” said Portman of the ever-increasing assessments. “I’m ready to just move.”

Portman is the kind of resident the city should be treating like a valued partner.  Their mindset ought to revolve around providing him and his neighbors with minimally efficient municipal services at the lowest possible charge.

Instead, Buffalo treats urban settlers like retail employees at a poorly-managed, failing chain.  This area will mercilessly wring as much as they can out of the equivalent of beleaguered staff while giving as little as possible in return.  The problem is that workers in such toxic environments inevitably reach a breaking point, quit, and look for work elsewhere.

Similarly, Buffalo is going to end up with a high turnover rate.  Even worse, it’s much harder to find replacement residents than new part-time register jockeys.  This city’s officiously unpleasant supervisors are soon going to realize how challenging it will be to re-staff their particular vacancies.

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