SCHENECTADY — Everyone gripes about high taxes, but a new report provides evidence that local homeowners may not be hallucinating.
Schenectady has the highest rate. But Niskayuna homeowners have the highest bill when you take into account home value.
Schenectady’s property tax rate is $48.20 per $1,000 of home value, according to the Benchmarking New York report produced by the Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank based in Albany.
That means that if a home is worth $110,800, the median in Schenectady, the taxes are $5,340.
The Schenectady County towns of Glenville and Rotterdam were ranked second and 13th on the same list, with tax rates of $43.47 and $38.16 respectively.
The annual report uses data from the state Comptroller’s Office to calculate effective tax rates, a combination of county, municipal and school district taxes.
The Empire Center said the “all-in" property tax bill is often a key factor in decisions by individuals and businesses on where to locate.
Tax rates don't necessarily correlate to high home values, said the organization, which acknowledged an inverse relationship between effective tax rates and property values, "with high effective rates often correlating to low median home values."
While Schenectady has the highest effective tax rate, when it comes to what people actually pay annually, Niskayuna residents pay more.
The town tops the list of highest property tax bill based on median home value in the Capital Region.
With a median home value of $261,700 and a tax rate of $32.46, the tax bill for the median home located in the Niskayuna Central School District is $8,496.
The number is slightly lower for homeowners in the third-ranking South Colonie Central School District: the tax rate is $29.95 for a median home value of $261,700, resulting in a $7,838 annual bill.
The city of Troy ranked third-highest for effective property tax rates, and Albany, fifth.
One bright spot:
Taken as a whole, the Capital Region’s median tax rate of $26.09 per $1,000 in assessed home value is the lowest out of the nine regions crunched by the Empire Center (excluding New York City and Nassau, which impose different tax rates on different classes of property and were not ranked).
The statewide median is $31.71.
Central New York has the state's highest median tax rate at $35.43.
Edinburg in Saratoga County has the lowest property tax rate based on median home value in the Capital Region: The tax rate $8.83 per $1,000 in assessed value means homeowners with the median home value of $237,700 pay $2,100 annually.
Warren County in the Adirondacks dominates the list of the bottom effective property tax rates in the Capital Region.
New York state has some of the highest property taxes in the nation.
The purpose of the annual report is not to stigmatize, but to raise questions and to “promote a more-informed public discussion of the forces driving high local taxes,” the Empire Center has said.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city has been working to curb high tax rates.
“In the city, we’ve cut taxes four years in a row,” McCarthy said.
The city's effective property tax rate reached $52.67 by 2015, but has dropped 6.5 percent since then.
The combined rate in Schenectady is now $48.20, with the city tax rate compromising $12.98 of that figure.
The mayor noted the Schenectady City School District received a boost in state foundation aid this year, and said he was “hopeful” the district will provide taxpayer relief.
The $202 million spending plan adopted by the city school board last month comes with an over 4-percent increase in the district’s general fund and a 1.4-percent cut to the local tax levy.
When the school board adopted the budget proposal last month, district officials trumpeted the tax levy cut, which brings the levy to its lowest level in a decade and marks the fourth straight year of a levy reduction – a cut of around $2.7 million total in the past five years.
“While our budget has been going up for the past number of years, the tax levy has either stayed the same or has gone down … That’s certainly one of the highlights that we’ve been able to do both,” Kimberly Lewis, the district’s business director, said at an April board meeting.
City officials also have contended Schenectady remains on the low end of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities funding, which would help offset the tax burden.
NISKAYUNA SCHOOL DISTRICT
Niskayuna School Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. declined to comment directly on the numbers listed in the Empire Center report, noting district officials had only first seen the report on Friday, and that school taxes are just one component of the figures listed.
He pointed out the report uses an average of homestead and non-homestead tax rates, while the district's homeowners only pay the homestead rate.
The rate is $19.34 per $1,000 of assessed property value.
"Based on this, the figures likely are not a true reflection of the experience of individual homeowners in our district because they pay only the lower homestead rate," Tangorra said. "However, we fully recognize that our community makes a significant investment in education."
He continued: "A complex set of factors go into individual tax bills. Some of these factors we can control and some of them we cannot."
The district is heavily residential without a large commercial base, which also affects taxes for homeowners, he said.
But the district is making efforts to control costs, he said, noting the five-year average spending increase is 2.5 percent; spending per pupil is below the state average and the tax levy increase over a five-year period is 1.5 percent.
Other areas of savings include making greater use of regional shared services through BOCES.
And the district noted it is receiving "significantly less" than full funding of state foundation aid.
"We are controlling spending while keeping the quality of education high," Tangorra said. "Our fair share of state aid would go a long way toward limiting taxes. We know that our community feels the impact of taxes, and we're committed to working with residents to make sure our decisions continue to reflect their values moving forward."
Town Supervisor Yasmine Syed didn't return calls seeking comment. But the town kept spending flat in its 2019 adopted budget, which officials cited as evidence they were mindful of the tax burden.
The complete statewide data can be searched and compared at SeeThroughNY.net/Benchmarking.
CAPITAL REGION HIGHLIGHTS
- Schenectady has the highest effective property tax rate in the Capital Region: The tax rate per $1,000 in assessed value is $48.20; or $5,340 annually on a $110,800 home;
- Glenville has the second-highest effective property tax rate in the Capital Region: The tax rate per $1,000 in assessed value is $43.47; or $6,025 annually on a $138,600 home;
- Niskayuna has the highest property bills on median value homes in the Capital Region: With the median home value at $261,700 and a tax rate of $32.46, the tax bill for the median home in the Niskayuna Central School District is $8,496, and the South Colonie Central School District, $7,838;
- Edinburg in Saratoga County has the lowest property tax rate based on median home value: The tax rate per $1,000 in assessed value is $8.83; or $2,100 annually on a $237,700 home.
- The Capital Region’s median tax rate of $26.09 per $1,000 in assessed home value is the lowest in the nine regions crunched by the Empire Center (excluding New York City and Nassau);
- Central New York has the highest median tax rate statewide at $35.43 per $1,000 in assessed value;
- The village of Sloan in Erie County has the highest effective property tax rate statewide: $62.48 per $1,000 of estimated market value, or $9,372 on a $150,000 house;
- The town of Arietta in Hamilton County contained the lowest tax bill on a median value home: $1,124 annually.
— Source: Benchmarking NY, Empire Center for Public Policy