This Op-Ed by Nicole Malliotakis originally appeared in the New York Post
Money doesn’t grow on trees. In New York City, it grows on houses.
At least that’s what City Hall seems to believe, with its consistent, steep increase of the property-tax levy — the amount of money our mayor and City Council have sought from property owners to pay for the city’s lavish spending.
As the amount of spending in the city budget rises, so do property tax bills — raking in $27.7 billion in fiscal year 2018. That’s a cumulative growth of 37.71 percent, or $7 billion, since 2013. Expect it to rise even further with the most recent preliminary city budget set to spend a whopping $88.7 billion, roughly 25 percent more than under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
While nearly every other municipality in the state has a property-tax cap, limiting growth of the levy to 2 percent a year, New York City is exempt thanks to Mayor de Blasio, Gov. Cuomo and former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
For obvious reasons, de Blasio and the City Council don’t want to highlight their role in increasing the levy and killing the cap. De Blasio will often deflect by pointing out that the property-tax rate hasn’t increased during his time as mayor. True. But the mayor has been the reason it has stayed as high as it has.
Following the 9/11 attacks, Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council increased the property-tax rate by 18.5 percent. Sixteen years later, the city has not only recovered from its fiscal crisis, but ended fiscal year 2017 with a $4 billion surplus. It is long past time for City Hall to sunset the current tax rate.
Additionally, de Blasio has been dragging his feet in establishing the property-tax commission he promised during the campaign that would review the antiquated system and propose reforms. Among the problems with the way the city currently calculates property-tax bills is the lack of fairness. For example, in 2017 my tax bill was $5,485 on a home valued at $559,000, while de Blasio paid just $3,581 on a home valued at nearly three times as much.
This is partly due to effective tax rates varying by council district. The median effective tax rate in my council district is 1.05 percent. In the mayor’s district, it’s 0.33 percent — the lowest in the entire city.
For someone who’s always calling for “income equality” and for the rich to pay their “fair share,” the mayor seems to have no qualms about middle-class families on Staten Island and in parts of Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx subsidizing the property taxes on his $1.6 million home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
In addition to capping the levy and sunsetting the post-9/11 rate increase, the commission should examine establishing one effective tax rate for all, making tax bills reflect market values instead of assessed values while implementing circuit breakers to protect senior citizens and those who’ve lived in their homes for a long time and have seen their market values soar.