March 19, 2008 – Governor David A. Paterson today announced that 43 counties will receive a total of $3.6 million in grants to study how they can reduce local government costs by making property tax assessment and collection more efficient.
Property taxes in New York State are among the highest in the nation and the property tax system is notoriously complex and difficult for taxpayers to understand. In New York there are 1,128 different government entities providing assessments for taxpayers, compared to a national median of 85. In addition, New York is one of only three states that lacks statewide uniform assessment standards.
“Every family and business in New York is affected by the high cost of local government,” said Governor Paterson. “By streamlining our property tax system, this grant program will make local government more efficient and result in lower property taxes for New Yorkers over the long run.”
To encourage more fair and efficient assessments, 41 counties will receive grants of $50,000 to study collaborative approaches to local assessing. The grant program provides county and municipal officials the opportunity to determine what assessing structure will lead to uniform improved performance for their taxpayers.
To help facilitate collaboration on local tax collection, 31 counties will receive grants of $50,000 to study and implement a countywide database for tax collection and enforcement information. Because of the substantial cost and performance advantages of a single system, the focus of the tax collection grants is on a common tax database, regardless of whether it supports multiple municipal or unified tax collection efforts. The grants will be administered by the Office of Real Property Services, in cooperation with the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness.
Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said: “It is vitally important that lawmakers from both parties remain committed to increasing government efficiency and lowering the overall tax burden facing New Yorkers. These grants are a good step in that direction.”
Assembly Speaker of the House Sheldon Silver said: “A major component of controlling the growth of property taxes across New York is in understanding how local governments can streamline property assessment and tax collection services. These grants, which will be distributed to counties throughout our state, are an important step in providing relief for homeowners and businesses that are most directly affected by overlapping local government tax collection services. Governor Paterson, by issuing these grants, shows his commitment to helping taxpayers in the Empire State.”
Senator Betty Little, Chairwoman of the Senate Local Government Committee, said: “High property taxes combined with methods of assessing that people find very confusing have combined to create a tremendous amount of anxiety and frustration for taxpayers throughout New York State. These grants represent a partnership for which I have advocated between the state and our local governments to work together to address this critical issue. I am pleased to join Governor Paterson in announcing these grants.”
Assemblywoman Sandra R. Galef, Chairwoman of the Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation, said: “A crucial component to addressing the property tax burden in New York is an understanding of how local governments can efficiently assess and collect taxes. These grants will help counties to develop methods to streamline the process and cut governmental costs and potentially pass on savings to homeowners and businesses.”
Lee Kyriacou, Executive Director of the Office of Real Property Services, said: “New York’s property tax system is, arguably, the most complex and confusing property tax system in the nation. These grants provide local officials the opportunity to find their own paths to improved assessing for their taxpayers. The focus is on ensuring that all taxpayers within a county are treated uniformly across municipal boundaries.”
In 2007, Governor Eliot Spitzer established the Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness (LGEC) as part of an effort to streamline government at every level. The LGEC will make recommendations on measures needed to advance partnerships among state and local governments to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of local governments, in addition to addressing issues of local government merger, consolidation, regionalized government, shared services and smart growth. The LGEC will report its recommendations by April 15, 2008.