ALBANY – State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli issued a report Monday highlighting recent trends in property tax exemptions in New York State outside of New York City and the impact they have on local governments and school districts.
The report illustrated the large number of properties that qualify for full or partial tax exemption status in the state, and also offers evidence that eligible properties within the city of Jamestown are about 7 percent higher than the statewide average.
In 2016, 2.7 million properties in the state outside of New York City (58.3 percent) were eligible for some type of tax exemption, according to DiNapoli’s report.
The value of these exemptions totaled $457 billion, approximately 30 percent of total property value ($1.5 trillion). When compared to 2006, this represents a five percent decrease in both the number of properties eligible for exemptions (2.9 million in 2006) and their total value ($479 billion).
The state percentage of exempt properties is 7 percent lower compared to the local exemptions in Jamestown. According to Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi’s 2018 Budget Presentation, there are currently 8,392 individual exemptions (on 14,730 total tax parcels), which have removed $387,313,378 from the city’s assessment rolls. That means approximately 37 percent of the $1.05 billion in assessed property value within the city is on the “exempt” or non-taxable rolls.
“Property tax exemptions can be a valuable tool to improve housing affordability or fuel economic growth,” said DiNapoli. “Since exemptions result in other taxpayers generally bearing financial responsibility for the offset in tax burden, it is vital that exemptions be carefully considered and periodically reevaluated to determine their effectiveness.”
Teresi took a harsher tone in October 2017.
“The recent statewide growth in and impact of tax exempt entities severely erodes the tax base of local governments and school districts, unfairly transfers the tax burden to remaining homeowners and businesses, and further compromises New York’s position as a fair and competitive environment in which to live and invest,” Teresi said in October as part of his budget address. “It is high time that the State Legislature recognizes and utilizes the authority vested in it by the State Constitution and starts dealing head on with the growing statewide problem.”
BREAKDOWN OF EXEMPTION CATEGORIES
According to the Comptroller, the largest exemption category in New York, both in total dollars and number of exemptions, is the “residential” category. In this category, the state’s School Tax Relief program (STAR) – which applies to a large portion of owner-occupied primary residences in the state outside of New York City – represents the majority share. STAR accounted for 2.4 million partial exemptions in 2016, worth $141 billion, or 31 percent of all exempted value. However, unlike other exemptions, STAR creates no direct additional burden on other local property taxpayers, since the school tax on the exempt amount is reimbursed by the state.
The next largest categories of exemptions are for local government and school district exemptions ($103.6 billion, 23 percent of all exemptions); non-profit organizations such as hospitals, education institutions and churches ($66.1 billion, 14 percent); and state-owned property ($44.8 billion, 10 percent).
The report also revealed:
- The number of business investment property exemptions and their value has dropped steadily over the past decade, from $2.5 billion in 2006 to $938 million in 2016. As of June 2017, almost 650 local governments and school districts have either reduced the percentage or disallowed this exemption entirely.
- For Fiscal Year Ending 2015, 109 Industrial Development Agencies reported they had granted $1 billion in property tax exemptions that were offset by $500 million in payment-in-lieu-of-tax agreements.
- To offset the loss of property tax revenue, some local governments charge user fees to not-for-profit organizations to help pay for services such as water, sewer and refuse pick-up. They have also arranged for voluntary payments to defray the cost of other municipal services such as police and fire protection.
The Comptroller’s report includes several examples from around the state of significant exemptions granted for government-owned property; large exemptions for business and private power-generating facilities; and substantial exemptions for not-for-profit organizations.