March 23, 2014

Governor takes aim at property tax

No matter on which side of the political divide you reside, we have to admit Gov. Andrew Cuomo is clever.

Early on, the governor tapped into the collective concerns of Upstate New Yorkers. The property-tax burden per New Yorker is 49 percent higher than the national average. In the last five years, property taxes rose by 42 percent on average while inflation rose by 13 percent. As a share of income, they are 60 percent higher. That’s 22 percent higher than the next highest state.

When combined with state taxes, New Yorkers pay the highest share of our personal income in taxes. This makes us the highest taxed state in the country. Yet, our income taxes are only marginally higher than the average state. The wide difference compared to elsewhere is in property taxes alone.

If we remove New York City from the calculation, we find our upstate property taxes are 73 percent above the national average. Downstate New Yorkers have many other taxes offsetting their property taxes, and many of these other taxes are paid by non-New Yorkers. These may be visitors to New York City or residents of New Jersey who work in the city. And, the property taxes levied on downstate residents often have a lower mill rate per $1,000 of property value because their homes are worth much more and because the housing density is much higher.

When we live a lifetime in an area with high property taxes, it is hard to notice whether our taxes are disproportional. It is like the frog in a pot. If the temperature of the water slowly creeps up, the frog does not notice. But, if suddenly plopped into a pot of hot water, the frog jumps out. This is the reaction we sometimes hear from people who explore moving here but are persuaded otherwise by our high property taxes.

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