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Jill Terreri Ramos
By Jill Terreri Ramos October 28, 2021

Brown overstates Walton tax increase

If Your Time is short

  • Walton has talked about raising property taxes by 3 percent over a four-year term, not in one year.
  • Increasing the existing tax rate by 3 percent would lead to an eventual increase of about $30 for a home assessed at $100,000.
  • Brown's claim might be true if Walton intended to add three percentage points to the property tax, but that is not her proposal. 

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, waging a write-in campaign to win a fifth term, tried to discourage support for Democratic nominee India Walton by saying she wants to raise taxes. Walton’s tax plan would increase taxes by $300 for people whose homes are assessed at $100,000, Brown said in a debate

Walton, who defeated Brown in the Democratic primary, has said she would raise homeowners' property taxes by 3 percent incrementally over a four-year term, with increases of a half-percent or 1 percent every year.

Walton’s spokesperson, Jesse Myerson, confirmed that her plan calls for a half percent to 1 percent increase in taxes yearly in her first term, until it adds up to a 3 percent increase.

Brown’s number didn’t seem right. His campaign didn't respond to our request for math that supports his claim, so we don't know if he misinterpreted Walton's tax plan or made a miscalculation.

We ran the numbers to see how much a 3 percent increase would affect the city property tax bill for someone who owns a house assessed at $100,000. 

The homestead tax rate in Buffalo is $5.24 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and the homestead school tax rate is $4.75, for a combined rate of $9.99. For a house assessed at $100,000, the tax bill for these taxes would be $999. 

If the $9.99 rate was increased by 3 percent, it would rise to $10.29. If that rate is applied to a house assessed at $100,000, the tax bill for these taxes would be $1,029, or an increase of $30 - not $300. 

We reached out to the Tax Foundation, which studies tax policies of local and state governments, and shared Brown’s claim, as well as Walton’s tweets about her proposed increase, with Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects. Walczak said an increase of three percentage points would result in a $300 increase for a $100,000 house, as Brown claims. But a 3 percent increase of the existing tax rate would result in an increase of $30 on a $100,000 house. 

"Based on her tweets, it does seem that Ms. Walton is proposing a 3 percent increase in tax liability," to about 10.29 per $1,000, Walczak said. "This would yield a tax increase of about $30 per $100,000 in assessed value, not $300."

We also spoke with Peter Warren, director of research at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank. He said Brown could have been confusing adding three percentage points to the tax rate.

In an interview on the Bad Faith Podcast on Sept. 30, Walton said that she does not plan for a 3 percent increase in one year. A state tax cap prohibits increases of more than 2 percent. "It’s an incremental tax increase that’s like a half-percent a year," she said. 

Under the cap, the tax levy can rise by 2 percent or the level of inflation, whichever is lower. To override the cap, 60 percent or more members of a local governing board must approve. Regardless of the cap, tax bills are influenced by whether properties are assessed at full value. 

Our ruling

Brown said Walton’s proposed increase in property taxes would lead to an additional $300 for a house assessed at $100,000. 

That might be true if Walton intended to add three percentage points to the property tax. But Walton proposes increasing the tax rate by 3 percent over her first term, which would lead to an eventual increase of about $30 for a home assessed at $100,000.

We rate Brown’s claim False.

Our Sources

WGRZ-TV via YouTube, video, Buffalo Mayoral Debate, Sept. 9, 2021. Accessed Sept. 30, 2021. 

Email interview, Jesse Myerson, spokesperson, India Walton campaign, Sept. 28, 2021. 

Email interview, Max Medwin, deputy campaign manager, Mayor Byron Brown campaign, Oct. 4, 2021. 

WKBW, video, "WATCH: India Walton on her plans for Buffalo after defeating incumbent Mayor Byron Brown in the Democratic primary," June 29, 2021. Accessed Oct. 14, 2021. 

YouTube, video, Bad Faith Podcast, Sept. 30, 2021. Accessed Oct. 12, 2021. 

Office of the New York State Comptroller, article, "What is the Real Property Tax Cap?," undated. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021. 

Erie County, Department of Real Property Tax Services Annual Report 2021. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021. 

Erie County, 2020-21 Real Property Tax Comparison. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021. 

City of Buffalo 2020-21 adopted budget, summary statements, Statement of tax rates and assessed valuation. Accessed Oct. 19, 2021. 

Email interview, Peter Warren, director of research, Empire Center for Public Policy, Oct. 20, 2021. 

Email interview, Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects, Tax Foundation, Oct. 20, 2021. 
New York State Department of Taxation and Finance, Publication 1110, "Assessments vs. Taxes: What’s the Difference?" July 2021. Accessed Oct. 21, 2021.

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