Johnstown revaluation under way

JOHNSTOWN – The firm hired to conduct a citywide revaluation of properties will begin to visit people’s homes to collect information in the next couple weeks, an official with the company said.

Sheri Casabella, project coordinator in the Albany office of appraisal firm GAR Associates, said Tuesday her company is just about ready to begin a valuation of the city’s 3,663 parcels.

“We haven’t gotten into the field yet,” Casabella said. “We anticipate doing that by the end of June or early July.”

The Common Council in April approved a $220,000 contract with GAR Associates, based in Erie County, to do a revaluation of the city’s parcels for the first time in nearly 25 years. The city is borrowing money to pay for the project.

The data-collection process is expected to last through September. GAR Associates, working closely with city Assessor Frank Parker, hasn’t decided yet where in the city it will begin its data collection.

Casabella said GAR Associates probably will have three to five people in the field working on the valuations.

City officials say the goal of the project is to create fair and equitable property assessments at 100 percent of full-market value for the 2015 tax roll. The city’s state equalization rate now is 70 percent.

GAR staff will do an exterior inspection of each property. Laser-measuring devices will be used by some of the data collectors to obtain measurements of each improved property. Digital photos will be taken of the exterior. All GAR staff will have proper identification on them during field inspections.

GAR Associates has been reaching out to the public with letters and a workshop.

“They had a meeting up at the library last week,” Mayor Michael Julius said Tuesday.

Casabella said the workshop at the Johnstown Public Library was “well-attended and well-received.” She said.

GAR Associates probably will conduct another workshop in late February or early March after her firm’s work in the field is done.

The city and GAR sent letters recently to Johnstown property owners with information about what the public can expect with the field work.

“The goal of this phase of the project is to attempt to verify and collect existing property inventory data in accordance with the New York State Office of Real Property Tax Service guidelines and regulations,” the letter stated.

The letter notes if the property owner is not home or does not answer the door, GAR staff will continue with exterior inspection. People who do not want anyone to access their property should call 1-866-910-1776 before Friday.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.