Photo Courtesy of John McCarten/NY City Council
City Councilman Eric Ulrich
By Michael V. Cusenza
Several elected officials representing borough communities called for changes to the city’s byzantine property tax system last Wednesday at a public hearing at York College before the NYC Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform.
City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) characterized the system as inherently unfair.
“It sometimes rewards the bad guys and punishes the good guys,” he said.
Ulrich noted that his staff recently pulled the tax bill of a home in Belle Harbor that was sold last year for $915,000. The property had a tax bill of $10,384; an effective tax rate of 1.13 percent. Ulrich said he then searched several properties in Park Slope, Brooklyn (Mayor Bill de Blasio maintains a residence in the neighborhood) that were sold in 2017 and found that they, too, had tax bills in the $10K range.
“Except those sale prices, according to the Department of Finance records, ranged between $2.7 million and a high of $4.3 million,” the councilman noted.
“A fair tax system, I believe, is one that is based on market value where homes with the same value pay the same taxes,” Ulrich added. “Currently we tax less-valuable properties at a higher rate. This disproportionately hurts communities of color and non-white districts throughout the city.”
Assemblyman David Weprin’s (D-Richmond Hill) testimony echoed that of Ulrich.
“The four-class property classification scheme, which has been in place since the 1980s, has resulted in some property classes bearing a disproportionate tax burden than other classes; and most significantly has led to a system where Queens and other outer borough residents are taxed more in proportion to the value of their houses than homeowners in wealthier areas,” the assemblyman explained.
While Weprin acknowledged the need to change the system, he also emphasized the importance of protecting property taxes “to ensure our continued prosperity.”
“Property taxes are the largest single source and most stable source of revenue for New York City,” he said.
The nine-member commission was established in May by de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson to evaluate all aspects of the current property tax system in the Big Apple and recommend reforms to make it fairer, simpler, and more transparent, while ensuring that there is no reduction in revenue used to fund City services. Its review includes: evaluations of the tax classification system; the methods of determining property market values and assessments; the treatment of property value increases; relief for low-income and senior homeowners; and method of calculating tax rates. The commission will solicit public input by holding at least 10 hearings and has pledged to review comparable property tax systems from other cities. Its recommendations may include changes that could be made at the City level, as well as those that would require State legislation.
“We’d like to hear about your experiences, both in terms of the fairness of the taxes, your ability to understand what’s going on with your tax bill, the appeals process, the problem with properties appreciating and yet your incomes not necessarily keeping up with that and ways to deal with those issues,” said Vicki Been, co-chair of the commission. “We really look forward to hearing from you on this wide range of issues.”