August 7, 2006

Prosecutor-politicians and property taxes

The Journal is quiet on Dryden this morning, but they did run a Jay Gallagher article wondering how Eliot Spitzer might compare to Republican former prosecutors Thomas Dewey and Rudy Giuliani. (Congressional candidate Mike Arcuri is also a prosecutor; technically, Spitzer is Attorney General, representing the state but not a District Attorney.)

Over at the New York Times, they compare property tax increases to income increases. Their focus is on the New York suburbs, but a lot of those issues are familiar. A few choice bits:

Property taxes grew two to three times faster than personal income from 2000 to 2004 in the suburbs surrounding New York City, a sharp reversal from the 1990's, when incomes soared and property taxes climbed more modestly, a review of statistics by The New York Times has shown.

In Nassau County, the tax collections rose 29 percent from 2000 to 2004, while total personal income went up only 11 percent, according to data from the state and the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis. In Bergen County, N.J., property taxes jumped 26 percent, three times the growth rate of income, about the same ratio as in Westchester.

And in the sharpest rise in the region, property taxes soared 41 percent in Somerset County, N.J., while income inched up only 5 percent.

Most states experienced a similar squeeze, data compiled recently by the Census Bureau shows. After years of moderate growth, property taxes started climbing steeply when the steam went out of the stock market in 2000, slowing income growth. Nationwide, property taxes grew 28 percent from 2000 to 2004, though income went up only 16 percent.

But it is in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut that the reversal has been most dizzying, with the states faring better than the nation in the good years and worse since 2000....

In the session that recently ended, the Assembly in New York State — where income growth from 2000 to 2004 was among the lowest in the country — increased school aid and approved property tax rebates that mainly benefit suburban homeowners....

New York City property taxes are rising rapidly as well, up 47 percent since 2000, compared with just 5 percent from 1995 to 2000. But city property taxes are lower than those in the suburbs because most of the city's revenue comes from income and sales taxes....

With rising incomes came a flood of revenue from income and sales taxes. In New York and New Jersey, some of the states' bounty was funneled to local governments in the form of increased aid and property tax rebates. In New York, for instance, the state enacted the School Tax Relief program, or STAR, which saved homeowners billions of dollars and provided billions to school districts starting in 1997....

In New York, counties and municipalities alike kept property tax increases under the annual inflation rate of 2.5 percent from 1995 to 2000, according to an analysis by the state’s comptroller, Alan G. Hevesi, that was released in April.

But since the stock market cooled in 2000, there has been a sharp reversal: Income growth slowed, stopped or in some counties actually declined for a year or two before recovering in 2004. Worse yet, property taxes began to soar. From 2000 to 2004, property taxes in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut rose twice as fast as income.

New Jersey and Connecticut have similar problems, they report. They don't mention upstate at all, alas, though I think a lot of this will be familiar.

Posted by simon at August 7, 2006 5:21 PM in
Note on photos