City of Rochester
(Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013) – I thank Governor Andrew Cuomo and the commission members for their focus on the tax burdens facing both businesses and residents of New York, particularly in the upstate area. We appreciate their emphasis on reducing upstate manufacturer property tax and corporate income tax.
The commission’s call for a two-year freeze on property tax increases — which would include rebates for jurisdictions that remain under the present two-percent property tax cap — is hard to judge at this point as the devil is always in the details. I can say that in Rochester, we have already frozen property taxes for all taxpayers for the last two years without the benefit of a state rebate. We have done so because we do not believe the solution to our financial challenges lies in the property tax and our taxpayers are often the least able to afford any increase.
The difficulty in finding solutions to stabilizing and reducing property taxes underscores our belief that moving away from the reliance on the property tax model is the only long term solution to finance cities like Rochester. Our entire property tax levy is swallowed up by just two state mandates: the Maintenance of Effort for city schools and our mandated worker’s pension payments. While Rochester has operated efficiently, intelligently downsized and continued to seek efficiencies, it is evident that even the best-run cities cannot survive under their current financing structure.
While it is entirely appropriate for the commission to focus on holding down and even reducing property taxes, we hope there will be more discussion on alternatives to financing the needed services and functions of our cities.
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