Proposed changes to state owned land taxation prompt controversy


Proposed changes to state owned land taxation prompt controversy

CANTON — Proposed changes to the way New York pays local property taxes on state-owned land may increase efficiency, but local municipalities worry they may lose revenue and see more tax burden shifted to private citizens.In the executive budget briefing, which lays out the governor’s budget proposals for the following year, the State Budget Office proposed ending local assessments of state-owned land for the purpose of paying local municipal property taxes.Not all state-owned land is taxable, but much of the state parkland is — including the Adirondack and Catskill parks.For municipalities that included this parkland, the state taxes can be a significant source of revenue. The county bills the state for most of this tax revenue, and then distributes it to the towns. Some municipalities in the county receive almost no money from this billing. Canton, for example, receives $12.16. Eight receive over $10,000, and Colton and Clifton each receive over $100,000 — $168,104.20 and $254,826, respectively. State-owned land in Colton is assessed at almost $58 million, according to information provided by Town Assessor Tina Miller.The state, however, says that checking local assessment of parkland value is inefficient.“Locally determined assessments of taxable State land are reviewed by the Office of Real Property Tax Services annually, encumbering agency resources,” the briefing reads. The state proposes to move to a Payment In Lieu of Taxes to municipalities. This PILOT would lock in the 2018 assessment rates and then raise revenues by the allowable levy growth factor, or the increase in the total revenue the municipality is collecting from property taxes. The allowable levy growth factor is capped at either the rate of inflation or 2 percent, whichever is lower, eliminating the need for further assessment of state property while increasing revenue yearly.“The reason why we’re doing it is simply for administrative efficiency,” said Morris Peters, spokesman for the state division of budget. According to Mr. Peters, the guaranteed increase at the allowable levy growth will actually mean not only a reliable increase in municipal funding, but an increase that may be higher than other property tax rates. Municipalities can choose to increase property tax revenues at a level under the levy growth cap, but the state is committed to increasing at the level cap, whatever that may be.“There’s not many places in the (state) budget that is increasing,” Mr. Peters said. Local officials and activists have raised concerns, however, that a PILOT would reduce the revenue to municipalities, possibly shifting the tax burden to private citizens. “I am personally completely opposed to this legislation,” Ms. Miller said. She worries that by locking in an assessment and set increases, private property owners will bear the brunt of any necessary increase in taxes, a concern shared by others concerned with the Adirondack Park.“We fear it will lead to the assessment of the state-owned land being artificially lowered,” said Peter Bauer, executive director of Protect the Adirondacks, a not-for-profit dedicated to preserving the park. Mr. Bauer acknowledges that, in some areas, the proposal might save municipalities money by eliminating timely assessments of state land, but that some land in the state park — such as undeveloped lake front property — is rapidly increasing in assessed value, which the PILOT would not account for.“I think the 2 percent increase … is not going to be reflective of the change in land values in communities across the park,” Mr. Bauer said.The levy cap is not supposed to compensate for increases in assessed value, but rather increases in needed revenue, and Mr. Peters dismissed the concern about values of state land increasing dramatically.“Committing to growing the amount (paid) … is somewhat of an oddity,” Mr. Peters said. According to him, the proposal “almost guarantees” that, in fact, the tax rate for state- owned land will increase more than local tax rates.
Source: Watertown Daily Times Latest News
Proposed changes to state owned land taxation prompt controversy

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