A 10-Year Retrospective On Your Local Property Tax Levy
Its not too often that we wax nostalgic, longing for those "good old days", here at The Community Alliance, but, having recently received his Statement of Taxes, this blogger figured he'd take a step back in time to see what he was paying in County, Town, and School taxes back in 1999 (when we were supposedly partying, in anticipation of everything coming to a grinding halt at the strike of Midnight on January 1, 2000).
So, I pulled out my property tax statements for 1999 -- Angie M. Cullen, Receiver of Taxes (don't these folks ever go away?) -- and offer now a quick comparison. [Your tax levy may vary.]
1999 General Tax (County of Nassau, Town of Hempstead) -- $2532.12
2009 General Tax (County of Nassau, Town of Hempstead) -- $4546.24
1999 School Taxes -- $3732.76
2009 School Taxes -- $7245.75
1999 Town Taxes (including Special Districts) -- $1545.39
2009 Town Taxes (including Special Districts) -- $2532.65
1999 County Taxes -- $986.73
2009 County Taxes -- $2013.59
Town Special District (water, fire, sanitation) Taxes [for those who still buy into the legal fiction that these entities are not under the control of the Town]:
1999 -- $769.82
2009 -- $1368.67
1999 total property taxes (County, Town, School) -- $6264.88
2009 total property taxes (County, Town, School) -- $11,791.99
We're not accountants here at The Community Alliance, so you can do the math. Better yet, pull out your own property tax statements (go back as far as you'd like, if you can stomach it), and see your bank account drained before your very eyes.
Have salaries doubled in ten years? Not for most of us. Social Security been increased two-fold? No. Investment income matching the rising property tax? Not in this economic climate.
In the first year that we could find where total tax levies were included in the Statement of Taxes, which was 2003 (thanks to Don Clavin, Receiver of Taxes, then and now), the numbers present a picture that is even more astonishing.
In a matter of 6 years, we've seen, as example, the following increases in the tax passed along to the public:
2003 County tax levy (rounded to the nearest thousand) -- $402,706,000.
2009 County tax levy (rounded to the nearest thousand) -- $425,781,000.
2003 Town tax levy* (rounded to nearest thousand) -- $156,885,000.
2009 Town tax levy* (rounded to nearest thousand) -- $214,024,000.
*Includes Special Districts
2003 Town Special District tax levy (rounded to nearest thousand) -- $18,882,000.
2009 Town Special District tax levy (rounded to nearest thousand) -- $24,314,000.
2003 School tax levy -- $25,833,996.72
2009 School tax levy -- $33,949,929.56
For those crunching the numbers, and looking to point fingers and place blame, in the 6 years from 2003 to 2009, the increase in the total tax levy was as follows:
County of Nassau -- $23,075,000.
Town of Hempstead -- $57,139,000. [So much for TOH Republicans saving taxpayers' money!]
Town Special District* -- $5,432,000.
School District** (rounded to nearest thousand) -- $8,116,000.
*Figure represents single Fire District, Water District, Sanitary District, combined
**Figure represents single School District
Okay. Let's point fingers and lay blame, since that's what the politicos seem to do.
In just 6 years (3/4 of Tom Suozzi's tenure as County Exec, and all of Kate Murray's time in office as TOH Supervisor), the County (which encompasses the Town) raised taxes by $23 million, while the Town (smaller than the County, which includes 3 Towns, 2 cities, and numerous villages), raised taxes by $57 million.
And the GOP has the gaul to ask residents to put Republicans back in control of the Nassau County Legislature, and keep the GOP in Hempstead Town Hall for another hundred years? [Let's see. 6 years=$57 million. 100 years=??? Too mind-boggling to even think about!]
An Ed Mangano tax revolt? While the Republican tax increases at the Town level are revolting, indeed (as were the handling of finances at the County level under former CE, Tom Gulotta and his Republican administration, which, in great measure, led to the necessity of tax increases under Tom Suozzi and the Democratically controlled County Legislature), we always assumed a tax "revolt" meant you wanted to lower taxes, not raise them!
And here we were, thinking that Kate Murray, Tony Santino, and the Town of Hempstead Republicans were serious when they declared "we're holding the line on taxes."
But we digress. No more pointing fingers. You know who's been naughty and who's been naughtier. You are smart enough (we can only hope) to differentiate the big lie from the damned lie.
Truth is, property taxes are not a Republican problem or a Democratic problem. Given their druthers, both parties would tax -- and have taxed -- us out of house and home.
And let's not even talk about the school districts. [All right. We will, but for a moment.]
The figures posted above represent but a single school district levy in Nassau County. Multiply that figure, more or less, by the 57 (as many as Heinz has varieties of pickles) school districts in Nassau (out of a mind-blowing 124 on Long Island), and the increase alone in the total tax levy to finance Nassau County's schools in the 6 years from 2003 to 2009 was a whopping $462,612,000., plus or minus a few million dollars, here and there.
Now we're beginning to talk about real money! [More than 60% of the average homeowner's property tax bill, in fact, and climbing.]
Then, multply the $5,432,000.00 Special District tax levy increase by how many Special Districts in Nassau County? We cringe at the very thought!
Indeed, the numbers are so staggering that they have become almost as statistical as they are painful, difficult to reduce to terms the individual taxpayer can comprehend.
Let's make it simple, then. Pull out your own Statement of Taxes -- go ahead, we dare you -- and take a look at the bottom line.
Our elected officials may lie, skewing figures and ceremoniously, if not disingenuously, "freezing" budgets. [Recall that Tom Gulotta, as County Executive, also "froze" taxes, year after year. We all know the end game of that charade.] The numbers, on the other hand, do not.
No, high property taxes, occasioned by reckless spending, excessive borrowing, the accumulating interest upon debt our great grandchildren will still owe (lest they all abandon Long Island, as polls and pundits portend), and the burden they place upon homeowners and businesses alike, are neither a Democratic problem nor a Republican problem. High property taxes are OUR problem (that's WE, the People).
Change, you say? Oh, they can keep the change (and they will). What we need, whether in Albany, the County Seat, Town Hall, or on our local School Boards, are folks willing, able, and ready to make the tough decisions (and understand, those decisions, and the dramatic cuts in spending they must entail, will be difficult), and offer us up something more than empty rhetoric as property tax relief.