Why Oneida County tax rates could change despite no levy increase

UTICA — Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente Jr. proposed a $439.7 million budget for 2020 earlier this month that featured a zero percent increase to the county’s property tax levy for the seventh straight year.

Despite the unchanged levy, however, countywide municipalities are estimated to see their tax rates either increase or decrease from the previous year, according to data provided by the county. Of the county’s 28 municipalities, a 50-50 split is projected between municipalities that would see an increase and those that would see a tax decrease.

These discrepancies are all due to New York’s equalization rates, Picente said.

“It’s the difficulty of explaining the county tax rate because there are so many taxing districts we go through,” Picente said. “Whereas the city itself, whether it is the city of Utica or Rome, they put out a tax rate per thousand, that’s what it is. When we put out a tax rate or levy it has to go through 28 municipalities. Then it has to go through the state system.”

The state’s equalization rate is the total assessed value of a municipality divided by the total market value of said municipality, according to tax information on New York’s Department of Taxation and Finance website.

The state lists two reasons as to why equalization rates are necessary.

The first is because each municipality determines its own level of assessment. This is in contrast to most other states that require one level of assessment statewide, the state said.

The second is that New York’s hundreds of taxing jurisdictions — including most school districts and counties — do not share the same taxing boundaries as the municipalities that are responsible for assessing properties.

“Anytime the value of an area rises faster than its neighbors, (as reflected by a decline in the equalization rate) it will pick up more of the apportionment and its tax rate will rise versus its neighbors, all else equal,” said Anthony Carvelli, the county’s commissioner of finance, in a statement.

The projected 2020 rates were handed out during Picente’s recent budget address. The actual 2019 rates were also included.

Some of the numbers — particularly with Camden and Lee — are deceiving, Picente said.

“They’re not really the highest (decline),” said Picente. “They’re at full valuation. The assessments are different then everyone else’s, which is why they look like the highest (decline).”

Picente said not to use municipalities like these as guideposts. Instead, he suggested looking at somewhat similar municipalities, such as Boonville to Stueben, Utica to Rome and Verona to Whitestown.

The estimated rates could change in the coming months as properties are possibly added or subtracted from the tax rolls. The rates will be set when the tax rolls go out in January, Picente said.

Posted by Utica Observer-Dispatch, Oct. 20, 2019

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