Einstein had his Theory of Relativity and New York State has its Equalization Rate (ER) formula, which Westchester County uses in an attempt at tax equilibrium for its 25 municipalities.
By Tom McDermott
Einstein had his Theory of Relativity and New York State has its Equalization Rate (ER) formula, which Westchester County uses in an attempt at tax equilibrium for its 25 municipalities. Fortunately, Rye’s Assessor Noreen Whitty was on hand at the February 10 City Council meeting to explain these complicated matters in layman’s terms.
Whitty made two things crystal clear. First, Rye’s ER has steadily decreased to 1.71 from 2.91 in 2012. Second, a lower ER increases Rye’s share of County taxes. When an assessed value of a property, and a town’s total value of properties are divided by a lower rate, the result is higher taxes.
Despite an unchanged County tax levy, preliminary numbers indicate that Rye’s County tax will increase 6% in 2016. In total, Rye taxpayers will send $27.5 million to the County. That is about $5 million more than the City itself will collect from its taxpayers for what Whitty termed “very little in services.”
“The primary culprit is the ER,” according to Whitty. It all begins with the varied ways that municipalities assess value, from .5 all the way up to 100 percent. The ER is the state’s way of “shuffling the deck” to equalize rates of the full value of all County property. Whitty explained that the aim “is to have the tax on a $200,000 house be the same across the County.”
Sounds like a plan, but while the County tax levy has been stable for five years, in four of those years – last year saw a slight reduction – Rye’s share of taxes has increased. The City’s share of the total County tax levy has risen from 4.07 percent in 2012 to 5.01, an increase Whitty describes as significant.
Whitty explained that a Rye home with an assessed value of $22,600 will have a 5.99% or $250 increase for 2016, resulting in a County general levy tax of $4,428. Since 2012 that tax has risen nearly 21% or $764.
The good news, as Whitty and Mayor Joe Sack acknowledged, “is that the value of Rye property is rising.” That’s bad news as well, since Rye’s percent change of County Full Value in 2015 was a whopping 12.82. The average percent change per town was 4.54.
The presentation concluded with a brief discussion regarding the possible pros and cons of Rye performing a revaluation.
But, as Councilmember Julie Killian pointed out, discussions with Scarsdale’s Assesor showed that could be expensive, a “can of worms,” with no guarantee of a positive outcome. Still, Mayor Sack would likrevaluation guidance from the Finance Committee.