January 5, 2004

Fire taxes jump

I picked up my 2004 tax bill at the Town Hall today so I could sort out some questions I have about my mortgage escrow. The staff was pleasant, found my easily-misfiled name quickly enough, and gave me a copy of the bill.

I knew the bill would be higher, as my house's assessment increased by about 23%, county tax rates went up, fire taxes went up, etc. The total amount went up less than I'd expected, probably the relief I get seeing the bill after reading all of these dire warnings in the paper, but one number really stuck out: the levy increase for Dryden Fire Protection, at 31.8%.

Combining information from this tax bill and last year's bill (and removing the six entries for the Turkey Hill Water and Sewer districts), I get a table like:

Description2003 Levy% Change
from 2002
2004 Levy% Change
from 2003
Tompkins County Tax $25.1M17.7%6.468300 $31M23.6%7.48400
Dryden Ambulance $210K-48.5%0.390859 $224K6.9%0.385769
Dryden Town Tax $780K-11.4%1.474037 $846K8.5%1.471969
Dryden Fire Prot $583K3.3%1.314073 $769K31.8%1.597788
Solid Waste Fee Res $2.5M0.6%$51/unit $2.5M1.9%$52/unit

There are increases this year in nearly every levy - something I expected, as it was a tough year, with both state mandates and assessments increasing - but the largest percent change by a wide margin is in the Dryden Fire Protection line, a 31.8% increase in the levy and 21.5% in the rate. I noted earlier that there was something odd in the Ithaca Journal's reporting of an increase from $1.53 to $1.57 earlier this year, and it seems in fact to be a shift from $1.31 to $1.57, making fire protection cost taxpayers in the main Dryden district more than all of the basic town services.

It could be worse - the Town of Ithaca pays a $3.83/1000 rate for fire protection, and $1.26/1000 for Town taxes, but an increase of nearly a third (and nearly 10 times the percent increase of the previous year) seems surprising, especially in a year when the prevailing story was that the Town Board didn't get along with the fire companies.

The total levy for fire protection in the Town is still less than the total levy for Town taxes, despite the higher rate for fire protection. I think that's because the McLean Fire Department has a separate tax district, with a tax rate of $1.72/1000. Tompkins County has a full list of 2004 tax rates.

I'll have to do some more research into why exactly this happened, but it certainly seems strange at the moment. Did the audits find massively unmet needs?

Posted by simon at January 5, 2004 2:55 PM in , ,
Note on photos