Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Short-Term, No Gimmick Fix For Nassau's Property Tax Woes

Nix The 2-Year Lag. Freeze The Tax Rates. Let 'Em Spend Only What They Have On Hand.

Having established that a "freeze" of the assessment would not lower taxes, and with a populace leary of a modest, progressive income tax as a means to replace the regressive school property tax, here's a simple fix -- until the NYS Legislature puts in place a more permanent plan -- guaranteed to actually lower property taxes NOW.

1. End the lag time between the assessment (January 1) and the effective date (nearly two years later) of said assessed value upon the tax levy.

Talk about disparity. The taxes we pay today (and over the course of the next 18 months or so), are based upon the assessed value of our properties as determined in January of 2008. 

Was your assessment lowered this year? Yes? No matter. You are still paying taxes on the 2008 assessed value of your property. Your January, 2010 assessment won't kick in -- so as to impact on your taxes -- until October, 2011, at the earliest.

Why not end the lag, basing actual levies upon what your property is valued at TODAY?  Let homeowners and the owners of commercial properties take advantage of the sharp decline in property values by applying the January, 2010 assessment to the 2010 General Tax bill and the 2010-11 School Tax bill.

2. Freeze all tax rates.

Typically, if assessed values go down, tax rates increase to make up for lost revenues occasioned by the decrease in the assessment.  Freeze the assessment, and tax rates rise, correspondingly. Freeze the tax rates -- across the board (school districts, special districts, town, county, village and city) -- and, at the very least, property taxes will be held in check.

With decreased assessed values in a down market, and constant tax rates, property taxes will actually go down.

3. Permit the taxing authorities to spend only what they have in hand, and not a single penny more.

No borrowing. No  11th-hour hikes in the tax rate. No looking to Peter to cover Paul, let alone Mary. Spending will be limited to cash on hand. What they do not have, they simply cannot spend. Period.

Draconian? Perhaps. Hard to swallow, particularly for those accustomed to living off of credit, where they will gladly pay (with interest) Tuesday for a hamburger today? Absolutely. Painful for the "we can spend like there's no tomorrow" crowd? You betcha!

Families and individuals have to skrimp and save in these tough economic times, cutting back here and abstaining from spending there. Why should governmental entities be entitled to spend our money with any less frugality?

Folks, it's your money. Wouldn't it be nice if you were able to keep a little more of it in your own pockets?

1 comment:

  1. I sincerely, desperately want to believe something like this could work, but honesty compels me to admit that I have doubts. The biggest single cost driver impacting taxes is labor and benefits. Much of this is either an outgrowth of excessive patronage, too many special districts, or overly generous labor contracts awarded to politically active public employee unions. None of our elected leaders has shown that they are actually willing to, well, LEAD when it comes to directly addressing these problems. Instead, they seem to specialize in creating the appearance that they are doing something when in point of fact nothing's changing. Mangnano has already shown evidence of this tendency, by authorizing a "study" identifying cost reduction opportunities in Nassau's budget. Meanwhile, something like 48% of Nassau's budget goes to labor and benefits. Sorry Ed, but it ain't rocket science. You don't need a study to figure out what needs to happen here -but you do need some backbone when it comes to either reducing headcounts or re-negotiating labor agreements, and despite your campaign rhetoric, until and unless you take action on this front, your so-called "tax revolt" will be little more than an empty slogan.