On March 4th, the Democrat and Chronicle ran an article proclaiming “Rochester Area Property Taxes Among Highest in Nation.” The measure of the “tax rate” used in their study was the total tax bill for a property owner, adding together all county, city/town, and school taxes. The median rate in New York State as $30.69 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means that a $100,000 home would have a tax bill of $3,069. The median rate in Monroe County is $34.49. East Rochester was the highest at $47.94.
What about us? How did the City of Geneva score in the study?
Hold onto your hat: City of Geneva tax payers shell out a staggering $47.19 per $1,000. That figure is doubly of concern because Geneva is in Ontario County where, on the whole, taxes are lower than in Monroe County. Geneva's the exception to the rule! The median for Ontario County is only $29.57 versus the $47.94 rate for the City of Geneva. Yikes!
A quick look at the County’s property tax schedule pinpoints the problem in the City of Geneva. The Ontario county tax paid by property holders in the City of Geneva has held pretty steady around $6.37. Our City school tax is lower than surrounding school districts (Red Jacket, Midlakes, Bloomfield). It’s our City tax rate that is way out of line. Here's the 2007 tax levy:
- City of Geneva tax rate $ 18.22
- City of Canandaigua tax rate $ 5.97
- Town of Geneva $ 0.00
Many towns and villages have rates that fall between Canandaigua and the Town of Geneva, but our city tax rate is 3 times the rate of the next highest municipality in all of Ontario county!
Another D and C article (5/28/06) examined the ratio of property tax to home value. In the town of Brighton, where average home prices are around $200,000, total property taxes represent 4% of that value (just over $8,000 per year). In the City of Geneva, our median property value is about $80,000. So, taxes on an $80,000 home would be $3775. That is almost 5% of the home value, which represents about 25% more tax than Brighton.
Why does all this matter? Of course, in the short run, when we have to pay the bill it hurts our household budget to have to keep shelling out. In the long run, it hurts in other ways. Experts say that property values are depressed when taxes are too high which means that the equity people have in their homes doesn’t grow as fast. The dollars we put into the American Dream of home ownership shrink when property values don’t increase at the going rate. Seniors get priced out of their homes. Younger families move to a lower-tax jurisdiction (which, in many neighborhoods on the city’s borders means that they move right across the street into the town), new businesses build in the town to avoid city taxes, new development in the City is either non-existent or dependent upon tax breaks that perpetuate the cycle.
Thanks to some tough budget work sessions last year City Council got the message and took it seriously. The City Manager was directed to prepare a budget that held the line on the tax rate. Sorry to say, the City Manager in his final proposal put aside Council’s directive and came in with a tax increase. A slim majority of Council voted for an increase and failed to keep its promise to the people and to abide by prudent public policy.
This year the budget discussions have been even more disheartening. There has been council turnover in two seats. The new majority is unwilling to commit to no-increase budget. What’s worse, when Councilors Augustine and Capraro cited empirical evidence of the negative effects of high property taxes, they were told that the majority simply “don’t believe it.” Those disbelieving Councilors were unable to cite any evidence to the contrary. It should be of grave concern to every Genevan that an issue of vital importance to the long-term health of our community is treated so cavalierly.
For more details on regional tax issues, click on the link to the No Strings Document Library.