Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Troy - The Tax-Exempt Utopia

Routinely, residents of Troy hear statistical figures detailing the number of tax-exempt occupants in the city. Most recently the percentage of properties not contributing to the tax base is 56%, that is up 2% from the last figure that I heard. It isn't hard to arrive at this number when you add up the amount of property the three colleges own and the countless number of non-profits that continue to migrate to Troy and gobble up properties to expand their operations. It's no wonder that when a taxpayer in Troy is asked, "what's your number one concern," the answer routinely is "the taxes are too high." The tax-exempts are one of the major contributing factors to this concern because the 44% of us who are not tax-exempt pay 100% of the annual tax levy.

Recently, I read about, what could be one of the most useful pieces of legislation to come out of Albany in a long time. A plan will be introduced by a member of the State Senate that would require private colleges and other public tax-exempts to pay property tax. For a cash strapped state and city this could prove to be an excellent safety valve for homeowners by lessening our burden. It will be interesting to read the proposal and to learn more about the particulars, such as will the tax rates be the same or will "special deals" be made for certain tax-exempts allowing them to remain untaxed? Anyway you look at it, it's a decent idea. Why should 56% of Troy receive the same level of city services as the 44% do with the exception that the 56% get it for FREE? It's also worth noting that many of the tax-exempt entities receive state and federal grant monies(our tax dollars)on an annual basis to help run their operations, so in essence they are "double-dipping" on the tax paying public.

Clearly the system is broken and something needs to be done and this is a good first step. Who knows if the proposal will gain any steam or if it can even be done legally, but it is definitely worth exploring. Ultimately, a state constitutional convention needs to be held to address the dysfunction, shortcomings, and corruption that exists in New York State government. Curbing the wasteful spending, pealing away and eliminating the layers upon layers of bureaucracy and the plush jobs they offer is the only true way to approach our problem that is seemingly out of control.

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