A new fight for Tom Golisano: Fair property tax assessments


    Tom Golisano held a news conference Tuesday morning to tout a new campaign called Tax My Property Fairly. He said it aims to help homeowners achieve fair property taxes. (WHAM photo)

    Pittsford, N.Y. (WHAM) - The man known for co-founding Paychex and his philanthropic spirit is pushing into a new foray: Property tax assessment.

    Tom Golisano held a news conference Tuesday morning to tout a new campaign called Tax My Property Fairly. He said it aims to help homeowners achieve fair property taxes.

    “How do you feel if 29 percent of the homeowners in Monroe county are getting screwed? You like that? Because that’s what’s happening," Golisano said.

    Golisano owns property in Mendon and South Bristol on Canandaigua Lake and said he pays more than $212,000 each year in property and school taxes each year. Due to what Golisano calls an unfair assessment of his South Bristol home, he announced in October that he would withhold his $90,000 school tax payment until an issue with geese feces was resolved for him. Calls to the South Bristol town supervisor and NYS DEC confirm the issue remains unresolved.

    The Tax My Property Fairly website provides information on the assessment process, property values and offers people information on how to challenge their assessments if they feel they are overassessed.

    It's something Donna Graham said worked for her.

    "It isn't as difficult as people thought. I had no idea how easy it was," Graham said. "It cost me nothing. And a couple weeks later, I received a letter that my assessment had been reduced."

    Scott Punter of Gates said he's never had to challenge his assessments. He believes his property has been valued fairly.

    “It certainly can’t hurt," he said. "The more information people have, the better decision they can make, right?”

    In addition, Golisano is mounting a legal challenge in the form of a class action lawsuit on behalf of taxpayers who sold their homes for less than assessed value to try to help them recover some of the tax overpayment. Golisano said most of the plaintiffs are property owners who have sold their homes over the past five years for less than assessed value.

    "We're sitting there, watching it year after year after year, and they don't do anything about it," Golisano said. "The public needs to know this information. They really need to know it, because it’s a flawed system.”

    Golisano listed towns in Monroe County he said unfairly assessed homes versus sale prices: Irondequoit, Rochester, Perinton and Gates.

    Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini said those numbers in his town aren't quite accurate. However, he understands how Golisano is trying to help property owners - calling it a, "great thing," and welcoming review of its town's assessments.

    “This is an opportunity to educate residents on what their rights are, relative to challenge their assessment, giving them a little guidance," he said. “This class action lawsuit that he’s bringing. I think there are some towns and come communities that are coming to struggle with this. We’re at a hundred percent, according to the state. We’re fairly accurate. We will have outliers, there’s no question about that, and we’ll fix that as we go.”

    Assini adds Golisano's website and lawsuit are not methods to help reduce property taxes. He said growth of taxable value in the town is less than $1,000 over the past 5 years.

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