Addressing The Issues: Real Property Tax

A Column by Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney (R,C,I- New Hartford)
April 21, 2011
One of the most important issues not addressed in this year’s budget process was the inadequacies of real property taxation and the additional burden on taxpayers, who are footing the bill for unnecessary and costly services and mandates.

There is a major disparity between the taxing levels of New Yorkers in Oneida and Oswego counties when compared with property owners from other parts of the state. For example, according to research compiled by the Tax Foundation, Oneida and Oswego homeowners are paying a property tax over 2.3 percent of their home value whereas Westchester County homeowners are only paying 1.4 percent.

The Governor’s budget failed to address the major issues affecting this state in terms of the real property tax and unfunded mandates. The budget did cut spending, however in the process it shifted the burden from the cuts onto local governments while tying the hands of school officials at the same time. With local governments already assessing annual increases in the historically unchecked real property tax, there will be an exponential increase this year unless legislation is passed which caps the property tax. In doing so, there also must be the imposition of a mandate relief so that local governments can continue to function.

That’s why my colleagues in the Assembly Minority and I called on the Speaker and Assembly Majority to immediately bring to a vote the Governor’s legislation to enact a property tax cap. This measure has been supported by the Governor, passed in the State Senate and is even sponsored by the Assembly Speaker – but, despite this, Speaker Silver and the Assembly Majority refused to bring the bill out of committee for a vote.

In addition to this action, I am sponsoring two bills that take the Governor’s property tax cap measure even further. Assembly Bill 3897-B caps property taxes by more than 2 percent or the rate of inflation – whichever is less – while also reverting the costs of mandates in excess of $10,000 or net additional cost of $1million to the state. Furthermore, this bill would require legislators to understand the fiscal impact of mandates before they vote on them to prevent future unfunded mandates.

Assembly Bill 6977, of which I also am a sponsor, goes even further by calling for a property tax cap at 0 percent and abolishes all state mandates on local governments that cost more than $5,000 for local governments or $500,000 statewide.

Based on the needs of the residents I represent in Oneida and Oswego counties, I also have introduced legislation to address property taxes in my Assembly District. The first bill, A.6710, was introduced to help provide relief for seniors on their property taxes through adding exemptions to existing relief. The second bill, A.6704, provides a $100 real property tax exemption for an individual who installs and maintains a dry fire hydrant system.

To ensure long-term and meaningful property tax relief, we must pass a property tax cap alongside mandate relief. These two reciprocating elements will fail without their counterpart. For the sake of taxpayers, local governments and schools – those who already took a blow from the budget – we must only pass a property tax cap with additional legislation addressing the necessity of mandate relief.