Property Tax Reform
Property Tax Reform

New York State’s Office of Real Property Tax Services describes ours as the most complex property tax system in the nation. Constitutional reform that creates regular and uniform assessments, and consolidates the assessment function under the counties' administration would simplify the tax code, create efficiencies, save money, and prevent lawsuits.

Currently the function of assessment for property tax lies with cities, towns and (sometimes) villages, creating a patchwork of inequitable assessment practices that do not necessarily occur at regular intervals, and with little transparency.  Under the current constitution, assessment is the purview of these localities, with little state regulation.  A change to the constitution could institute a uniform system of property tax assessment that is both equitable, and transparent.

In a simple equation explaining property tax, the taxes collected would equal the rate of the levy times the base.  While the property tax cap seeks to control taxes through limiting the increase in the levy, assessment determines the size of the base.

As the property tax burden continues to rise to a level that is very burdensome (and sometimes overwhelming) to many homeowners, and detrimental to local businesses, these taxes remain essential to financing the core functioning of local governments and schools.  Efforts are already being made throughout the state to establish a more uniform standard of assessment. The Real Property Tax Administration Committee (RPTAC), made up of representatives of the New York State Assessors Association, the New York State Association of Directors of Real Property Tax Services, and the Office of Real Property Tax Services joined in a set of recommendations to the State Board of appropriate Uniform Assessment Standards. According to the committee, uniform standards would establish “equitable” and “transparent” assessments by ensuring that all properties are assessed at full market value and creating a tax system that is easily understood and accessible by taxpayers.

New York State’s Office of Real Property Tax Services describes ours as the most complex property tax system in the nation. In all counties but Nassau and Tompkins, assessment is a city, town and/or village function. Thus, while most states have fewer than 100 assessing units, New York has 1,100. Of these, 88% had appointed assessors in 2010 and 12% elected assessors. New York State law requires that assessments are to be made at a uniform percentage of market value each year. However, this applies only to “each assessing unit”, leaving room for large discrepancies in property tax rates from municipality to municipality. Moreover, the multiplicity of types of local governments that rely on the real property tax, combined with non-coterminality of the boundaries of taxing and assessing units, requires a major state equalization effort to assure as much fairness as possible in the distribution of the tax burden.  Nonetheless, disparities in tax treatment among property classes continue to widen.  In 2011, the Council of State Taxation, a business supported group, ranked New York State worst in the nation in property tax administration.

Furthermore, at a time when property values have been declining, still in some jurisdictions - New York City, for example - tax assessments have continued to rise.  This means that despite spending caps, and no tax rate raises, the taxpayer's taxes may still be rising.


ARTICLE IX

§2.

(2) Shall have the power to act in relation to the property, affairs or government of any local government only by general law, or by special law only (a) on request of two-thirds of the total membership of its legislative body or on request of its chief executive officer concurred in by a majority of such membership, or (b) except in the case of the city of New York, on certificate of necessity from the governor reciting facts which in the judgment of the governor constitute an emergency requiring enactment of such law and, in such latter case, with the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the legislature.

 

ARTICLE XVI

[Assessments for taxation purposes]

§2. The legislature shall provide for the supervision, review and equalization of assessments for purposes of taxation. Assessments shall in no case exceed full value.

Nothing in this constitution shall be deemed to prevent the legislature from providing for the assessment, levy and collection of village taxes by the taxing authorities of those subdivisions of the state in which the lands comprising the respective villages are located, nor from providing that the respective counties of the state may loan or advance to any village located in whole or in part within such county the amount of any tax which shall have been levied for village purposes upon any lands located within such county and remaining unpaid.

NEWS BEHIND THE CONSTITUTION
Ithaca Journal
Joseph Spector
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
 ALBANY -- School districts that stayed within the property-tax cap had little trouble winning support from voters on Tuesday. Those that strayed had difficulty. 
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Times Union
Scott Waldman
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
 Voters in virtually every school district in the state approved their school budgets on Tuesday.  
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The Daily White Plains
Luke Lavoie
Friday, April 27, 2012
 RYE, N.Y. – With the implementation of the 2 percent tax cap, the burden of unfunded mandates on local and Westchester County taxpayers has become nearly unbearable, a five member panel consisting of County Executive Rob Astorino and other...
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lohud.com
Saturday, November 26, 2011
Unhappy with the current property-tax assessment system and tax-appeal process? Here are some ideas that have been floated: The 15 percent ruleStatewide revaluationIncrease appeal feesStandardize the grievance processAllow right of accessRequire...
One of the suggestions in this clip is to standardize assessment practices and statewide revaluation. This could level the playing field, and avoid challenges to the assessment.
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New York Observer
Robert Knakal
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Property tax relief entails more than a simple legislative dictate. It should require a broad examination of all those issues that drive up the cost of local government. That said, property tax caps should be real, with little room for creative...
In New York City, the system of property assessment is manipulated and changed so that the city can ensure constantly rising tax collections. Even with property values dropping 38% from 2007 - 2010 in New York City, the tax assessments continued to climb. A constitutional amendment that institutes an equitable and standardized assessment practice across the state would be more fair to the taxpayers of New York, especially in New York City.
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SOLUTIONS
Non-legislative proposals from community groups, advocates and thought leaders.

 

 

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