City property taxes may be lower than those in the suburbs, but they’re notoriously unfair, especially to middle-class homeowners in places such as Queens.
You know the story, because it’s a cliché: the owner of, say, a single-family house in Howard Beach, or a condo in Lindenwood, or a co-op in Glen Oaks has to pay a far higher property tax rate, compared with his or her home’s actual value, than some high-flying financier with a pied-à-terre on Park Avenue that gets used seasonally. Or, for that matter, a veteran city politician who owns two nice homes in Park Slope.
But now that very politician, Mayor de Blasio, is mulling over a report he commissioned along with City Council Speaker Corey Johnson on how to make the system fair. The key element: basing property taxes on market value rather than assessed value.
Basing them on assessed value is one of the key reasons city property taxes have been so out of whack for so long. It’s why an $8 million brownstone facing Prospect Park has a tax bill of only $20,165 a year, according to The New York Times. Compare those numbers to the equivalent for a house here and the need for reform becomes obvious.
The commission’s report recommends revenue-neutral changes, meaning they would not generate more property taxes for the city but simply spread them out more equitably. If that’s what actually would happen, it’s a plan worth aggressively pursuing. Since it would need both city and state approval to be put into law, there will be many opportunities for analysis and public input before anything changes. The recommendations would affect an estimated 90 percent of property owners across the city.
Property tax reform is greatly needed, and this plan sounds like a solid basis to start from. Let’s not forget about it; it’s time to delve into the details and go from there.