LEGISLATIVE AFFAIRS: It’s Time for Industry to Revolt Against High Property Taxes

Philip Weiden | April 2018

The property tax cap has been a good starting point for reigning in the cost of tax increases every year on homeowners, but this is simply no longer enough. Property taxes continue to go up, albeit at a controlled rate. One means a municipality may use to increase revenue is to artificially raise assessments to levels high enough to dramatically increase property tax bills even though the value of the property has not changed at all.

If property taxes are not reigned in, it stands to reason the home ownership rate will continue to go down in New York State. The MTA continues to borrow money every year. Public pension systems cost way too much and are bloated well beyond what local governments and school districts can afford. Over the last two years, property taxes have increased by a maximum of 2% each year, which New York State considers a success. According to TruthInAccounting.org, in 2016, the average New Yorker’s tax burden was $20,500 (up from about $13,700 in 2009). It is outrageous that buying a house should mean that on top of what you own, property taxes are equivalent to paying rent on the property as well.

We must fix this. Innovations in the way we live are happening all the time. Airbnb has dramatically lowered the price of vacationing or staying overnight somewhere. Uber and Lyft have made it cheaper to go from point A to point B. If residents of the great state of New York say, “Nothing will change,” then nothing will. The first thing we can do is pass a constitutional amendment capping spending at the rate of inflation. This would be for both local governments and state government. The next thing we can do is relieve local municipalities and school districts of the unfunded mandates and regulations that Albany places on them.

Finally, we must continue to fine tune the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) to ensure that we meld the environmental impact review process with a fair and streamlined process for approving new construction projects. We need to make sure that developers believe that New York is a viable and business friendly environment open for business. If we can accomplish some of these things we can lower property taxes and not just reign in the property tax increases.

Philip Weiden
Legislative Affairs columnist Philip Weiden is the Government Affairs Director for the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors.