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EditorialOur local elected officials talk a lot about the assessed tax base, and how raising it will take pressure off of current property owners by keeping taxes low.  My overly naive Pollyanna-ish mind immediately goes to 'more development equals lower taxes and all those people on fixed income who are this close to losing their ability to stay in their homes will miraculously be saved.  As I inch toward end-of-life fixed income myself I think, Yay!  That new development on Warren Road will mean I can stay in my house forever!

But then the tax bills come.  They ain't going down.  And assessment notices come.  And they ain't going down.  Just as airplanes don't have 'reverse' in their lexicon of directions, property taxes don't have a 'down'.

I know why the politicians taunt us with this false hope.  It makes them look good.  OK, that was cynical, but even in its best light it illustrates they are as naive as I am, and you don't want to have someone like me controlling the municipal purse strings.  Because I'd be driven to distraction every time I lowered your tax rate only to find that you are actually paying more each year.  And 'a hope and a prayer' aren't accepted methods for reducing taxes.

Every so often I travel the country on Zillow, looking at home values and tax rates in other places.  It is clear that we live in a very expensive part of the country, and no matter what spin our exalted Governor puts on it, New York is not a state that is friendly to jobs and businesses that might take some of the tax burden.  New York is the state with the third highest outbound population according to an analysis by United Van Lines.  New Jersey is losing the most people, followed by Illinois.  Followed by us.

What's it going to take to make our little town affordable?  Cut state mandates, increase the tax base especially by encouraging new businesses, upgrade roads and infrastructure... did I mention cutting mandates?  Yeah, do that.  These are the usual suspects, the things local officials cite the most when they're trying not to cite cutting programs.

Would it work?  The theory is that it would, but I am beginning to believe that the only way to get out from under high property taxes is to go somewhere else where they aren't high.  That isn't to say our elected officials shouldn't be promoting development to grow the tax base and keep property taxes from going higher.  A little up is a lot better than a lot up.  But to say it provides tax relief is... well... optimistic.

Keep in mind that income tax is levied on people based on what money they are earning, while property tax is applied whether you have any money or not.  Many people think that income tax is fairer than property tax.

Maybe it is.  But one thing is clear: no matter what public officials say property taxes aren't going down.

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