Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Property Taxes: From Bad To Worse

Think We Have It Bad On LI? Try Westchester, And Upstate NY

We don't have to tell you what that property tax bill looks like. Most of you can see it in your sleep, assuming you can sleep -- the nightmarish bottom-line keeping you awake and your bank account teetering.

LoHud.com reports on even more dire straits north of Long Island, further highlighting the need for our elected officials in Albany to stop talking and start doing, vis-a-vis cleaning up the property tax mess.

The situation is toxic, and, as we all know, growing worse by the minute. Hold onto your wallets, folks. If you can...
- - -
From the Journal News:

Property tax bills rise even as home values fall

Joseph Spector and Diana Costello jspector@gannett.com

Live in Westchester County and you pay the highest property taxes in the nation, with a median bill of $8,404 a year. Live in upstate New York, and you also have an unenviable distinction.

Sixteen upstate counties — including Orleans, Monroe, Erie and Cortland — pay the highest property taxes compared with home values in the country, according to the U.S. census.

In all, New York's taxpayers pay property-tax bills that are 79 percent above the national average, a 2008 state report found. Property-tax levies grew 60 percent between 1995 and 2005, more than twice the inflation rate, the state Comptroller's Office said.

The situation has become so unbearable for Todd Feuerstein, a 45-year-old sales manager from New City, that he has thought about moving to Arizona.
>• Editorial: Tax conversation has finally started
>• Database: Calculate the property taxes for every state and county in the U.S.
>• Article: Citizens speak out against rising taxes across NY
>• Gallery: See more photos from this series
Taxes on his 3,500-square-foot home rose nearly 40 percent between 2003 and 2008, to roughly $13,780 from $9,900. He feels he is being taxed out of his home — yet no one seems to care.

"What are they telling me — that if I can't afford these taxes I have to leave my home?" Feuerstein said. "But who's going to buy it? No one's going to be able to afford moving to Clarkstown."

New York's property-tax burden — ranked annually at or near the top in the country — has long been a leading subject of complaint among residents, whether it's at the local diner, the school board meeting or within the halls of the state Capitol.

But the state's high property taxes have become even more pronounced in the past few years as the economy sputtered, unemployment hit record highs and the housing boom went bust.

Those issues are now coupled with a state government on the brink of insolvency, which is forcing cuts in aid to schools and local governments. The state is grappling with a $9.2 billion deficit, and last month the state delayed $2 billion in payments to schools because it ran out of cash.
Property Taxes at a Glance

Community   School district   County Tax   Town Tax   School Tax   Avg. Property Tax Bill

1. Rye city    Rye Neck          $5,756            $5,406          $23,470                $34,632

2. North Castle Bedford         $4,471            $4,103          $15,588                $24,162

3. New Rochelle New Rochelle $1,940         $2,612           $8,184                 $12,736

4. Ramapo Ramapo                 $856              $1,056          $10,075                 $11,987

5. Mahopac Putnam Valley   $1,079             $1,565          $7,779                   $10,423

6. Philipstown Garrison         $1,832              $1,713          $6,218                    $9,763

7. Clarkstown Clarkstown       $689               $2,723          $5,537                   $8,949

8. White Plains White Plains $1,368              $1,828          $4,863                   $8,059

Source: New York state Office of Real Property Services
Meanwhile, the factors that drive high property taxes — health care costs, high public-sector pensions and salaries — show few signs of slowing. Local governments, for example, will need to pay 61 percent more revenue to cover local pension costs in 2011.

A Journal News analysis of census data shows that Westchester County and Rockland County residents ranked second and third in the state in the amount paid for property taxes as a percentage of household income, at nearly 8 percent, trailing only Nassau County in Long Island.

Monroe and Dutchess counties ranked ninth and 10th among the 62 counties, with more than 5 percent of household incomes going to property taxes.

But New York school officials note that the school-tax-levy increase in the current school year was 1.85 percent, the lowest in at least 10 years, and they are now laying off workers because of state spending cuts.

And last year, the Tax Foundation, a national tax watchdog group, found New York's state and local taxes per capita ranked sixth nationwide behind such other Northeast states as New Jersey, Connecticut, New Hampshire and Vermont.

Moreover, a majority of New Yorkers have indicated in independent, statewide polls that they do not support state spending cuts. A Siena College poll found that 59 percent of voters did not support cuts to health and education — even if it meant higher taxes. Still, the February poll revealed that the two top priorities among voters were to reduce state spending and lower taxes.

Solutions to the state's property-tax issues — from proposals to enact a cap, link taxes to household incomes or cut spending — will be a top issue in the governor's race and elections across the state this year.

Already, candidates are jockeying to be the state's chief fiscal reformer. Last fall, an anti-incumbent sentiment swept through local elections — most strikingly in places such as Westchester and Nassau counties, which by no coincidence have the highest taxes in the state.

Just ask former Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi. He led a state property-tax commission and was a prominent voice on the issue. But he lost re-election last fall.

"I'm the poster boy for, 'The public is mad as hell,' " Suozzi said in an interview. "I'm the one who has been fighting for property-tax relief, pretty much more than anybody, and even I got booted — because they didn't want to hear me talk about it. They wanted results."

Voting with their feet

Andrew Rivera, a Verizon FiOS installer from Ossining, said his $12,000 annual tax bill eats up 20 percent of his gross salary. He has considered moving but couldn't get the transfer from work, he said.

So he's starting to speak out — even if reluctantly.

Organizing under the name of Overtaxed Citizens, he is posting information about upcoming school and town events where taxpayers can make their voices heard.

"I'm not some genius, and I don't think I'm necessarily the best person to stand up and speak about this, but I am concerned about my town and I know many other people who feel that way," said Rivera, 44.

"And the town is not listening to us, the school board is not listening to us, our elected officials are not listening to us. I can no longer sit still over this."

Nearly 1.7 million people left New York between 2000 and July 2009 — the most of any state, census data last month showed.


  1. A minor critique of the article above: the comparison made between New York's property tax rates versus those of other states needs to be put in some context. The pain in New York is not just high property taxes, but it's high property taxes PLUS state income taxes, sales taxes, county taxes, user fees, etc. etc. To compare New York against for example, New Hampshire, doesn't make any sense when you consider that New Hampshire doesn't have a state income tax and sales tax rates in other states are often lower than New York's. Bottom line: if you live in New York you are subject to a comprehensive array of state and local taxes, combined with inefficient and inadequate services. It's a hell of a deal.

  2. No matter how you slice it, New York is in a bad way, and NYers are bearing too much of the burden for years of spending as if there were no tomorrow.

    LIers, by all accounts, have it even worse. For every income tax dollar that goes to Albany, we get back 25 cents. In school aid, that number is even less -- 13 cents on the dollar.

    Woe is us!

  3. I say we throw the bums out, every last one of them! Both Dems and GOPers have done New Yorkers wrong, with no end to the shenanigans in sight.

    Let's elect Independents -- real independents, not regulars running on an Independence line -- and shake things up.

    Could it really be any worse than what we have now?

  4. This article simply ROCKS ! That was a great read for me. I simple agree on every word written, keep it up with all the good work.. You have got my Thumbs UP !!!