The Benjamin Center for Public Policy Initiatives at SUNY New Paltz has published its 23rd discussion brief, “Adding to the Load: How Built-in Biases in Assessment Make the Property Tax Even More Regressive in Ulster County,” a critical analysis of the inequitable results of taxation of single-family homes in three towns in Ulster County.
The study assessed values and sales prices of single-family homes in the towns of New Paltz, Saugerties and Wawarsing during the first quarter of 2021. It showed that built-in biases in assessment practices disproportionately add to the burden of the property tax for less affluent Ulster County homeowners. This confirms earlier findings of a massive national study, done at the University of Chicago.
The study is authored by Gerald Benjamin, Professor Emeritus and former Director of The Benjamin Center, and Sue Books, Professor of Secondary Education, with assistance from alumnus Marc Thurston ’21 (International Relations; Economics). It determined that because higher-value homes are generally assessed at a value proportionally lower than the price they command in the market compared to houses of more moderate value, owners of these properties avoid far more of their potential tax liability than do their neighbors living in lower-valued houses.
“Individual over- or under-assessments may result from error or even intentional bias,” said Benjamin and Books. “The existence of this bias diminishes the legitimacy of this tax in communities heavily dependent upon it, and therefore of local government generally.”
The study concludes that in order to assure greater fairness, the state should require more timely, regular, and consistent revaluation, or consider additional formulaic adjustments of local property assessments under certain specified circumstances to prevent lags in keeping assessment values current.
Use this link to view and download “Adding to the Load: How Built-in Biases in Assessment Make the Property Tax Even More Regressive in Ulster County,” in its entirety.
About The Benjamin Center
The Benjamin Center (formerly CRREO) was established in 2007 to help SUNY New Paltz engage with communities, governments, not-for-profits and businesses across our region. The Benjamin Center conducts and publicizes research on important policies and topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific areas of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.
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