Several Greece residents owning homes along Lake Ontario question hikes in their homes' assessed values

GREECE — As homeowners along Greece's lakeshore faced the threat of new flooding, some were outraged to receive new property tax assessments that raised their homes' values by thousands of dollars.

"When I opened the letter, I couldn't believe what I was seeing," exclaimed Laura DiStefano, whose property assessment jumped by almost $128,000, an increase of more than 70 percent.

The assessments began arriving in the mail early this week, even as some families declared their homes still suffered from a loss of value caused by the 2017 floods on Lake Ontario, and as they spend heavily on preparations for what could be new flooding in 2019.

"It comes in as fast as I can pump it out," said Charlie Foster-Burgio, who battled rising water, at least two feet of it flooding her basement.

She didn't expect to find herself fighting town hall until her new property tax assessment notice came, raising her home's assessment by $25,000.

In what she declared an insult added to injury, the assessment notices came in the same envelope as a note from the Town of Greece about locations where homeowners could pick up sandbags to prepare for higher lake levels.

"That's a slap in the face. Wouldn't you think?" Foster-Burgio exclaimed.

Some lakeshore families who've seen their homes devastated, repaired and now threatened again were livid over the new assessments.

"We've got the lake lapping up on our front door and the Town of Greece at our back door trying to take all our money," said DiStefano.

Steven Hicks hadn't even been able to live in his home since the 2017 floods. It was crawling with mold, it had no utilities and its foundation was undermined, seemingly a formula to cut a property's value. But in his assessment, the town announced its value has gone up by $7,000.

Greece assessor Richard Baart explained that, in a booming economy, lakefront properties are selling fast and for high prices and the assessments have to reflect that. 

"The preponderance of properties are doing very well and they are selling for thousands of dollars over assessed value," he said.

But these homeowners insisted they were being lumped into the wrong category of homes.

"We're not big money houses. We are normal people with normal problems. This is abnormal," said Foster-Burgio.

"I can't imagine a man would come out here, look at this house, and assess it for what he did," said Hicks. "I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt that he did it from his desk."

Baart said the town was certainly willing to listen to homeowners who felt their property was being overvalued or felt that there was some factor the assessor's office had missed.

On Wednesday alone, he said, his office had seen "half a dozen" homeowners concerned about their assessments. He said "the door is open" for informal meetings anytime.

Formal appeals hearings on assessments are scheduled to start May 28.