Claim of no change in tax rate for 17 years is false

To the Editor:

On page 10 of last week’s Enterprise, Elizabeth Floyd Mair writes the 2018 Guilderland town budget “will bring no change to the property tax rate for the 17th consecutive year.”

That is false information that The Enterprise and other media outlets have been publishing. It simply is not true.

First of all, there is not one town tax. The Guilderland town tax bill includes the following taxes: Town General, Highway, Election County Mandate, New York State Retirement, Ambulance, Sewer District, Fire District, and Water District.

The county tax bill is also on the January bill.

Even if we do agree to select one particular tax, the “Town General” tax rate, which covers administrative expenses not covered by the other areas, the claim would still be false.

In 2009, the town general tax rate was raised to .25938 per assessed thousand, up 4 percent from 2008 (.24952 per thousand). In addition, from 2007 to 2018 (see attached chart), the town general tax rate was increased in nine of 11 years. All of this can be substantiated with a careful review of past town budgets.

What’s worse, in 2012, in order to cover skyrocketing pension costs, the town moved those pension costs from the town general tax line and created a whole new tax line, the New York State retirement tax line. So, instead of raising the town general tax rate, they simply put a portion of their costs on another new tax line.

And then, in 2013, the town raised that retirement tax line by 111 percent.

The claim of “no change in the town tax rate” is false both technically and practically.

Mark Grimm

Guilderland

Editor’s note: Mark Grimm, a Republican, represents part of Guilderland in the Albany County Legislature. He served on the Guilderland Town Board from 2008 to 2011 and also ran for supervisor in 2013, making some of the same assertions then.

Guilderland Supervisor Peter Barber, a Democrat who agrees with the statement on the town’s website about the tax rate remaining flat for 17 years, responded, “If you want to cherry pick a particular line, you see a fluctuation up or down … Every year, taxable valuation increases, year to year, so we’re able to maintain the collection tax as flat … There could be one-1,000th of a penny fluctuation, sure.”

About the increase in 2009, Barber said the tax hike for a $200,000 house was less than a few dollars. He concluded that, while costs for services and materials continue to increase as well as there being new unfunded mandates, Guilderland’s tax rate remains essentially flat “because the town has healthy growth in residential, commercial, and industrial valuation.”