Death of the Saugerties middle class?

lettersMy family and I left Saugerties in 1992, at about the time that the town was turning around. The village was then gaining a new vitality due to an infusion of money from day trippers, who were attracted by the many antique shops and quality restaurants. Indeed, the village was becoming a destination and the road ahead seemed bright.

After these many years, we are returning to town, but have been flabbergasted by some of what we are learning! Since we can no longer consider ourselves “Saugertiesians,” I admit that some observations may be those of an outsider looking in. As such, if my feelings are ill-founded, I apologize for my ignorance, and look forward to contrary input.

Surely, state mandates contribute to the costs of local government. However, fiscal responsibility begins at home. My first reintroduction was related to HITS. As a major draw that occupies such a large area, I expected that it must be a key contributor to the tax base. I was shocked to be told that it is leased to an out-of-town nonprofit! Presumably, attendants do patronize local restaurants and shops, but what about the tax base? I cannot help but ask, “What is the total revenue from the lease?”

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On a personal level, we have been looking at properties from one end of town to the other, being consistently shocked at the tax rates. As example, one typical raised ranch in Barclay Heights is assessed for $212,500, (real value about $195,000) 2012 taxes: $7,400! On the other end of the scale, though not in our category, is a home currently listed for $3.9 million. Set on 50 acres, the 2010 taxes were $12,056. In 2011; they were reduced to $8,622. To my mind, a sale price difference of $3.7M, vs. a tax differential of $1,200 seems, shall we say, unusual?

If the intent behind these goings on, is to replace locals with metropolitan transplants, this might prove an effective strategy; seemingly though, at an unfair cost to those whose families have built Saugerties for generations. Even some of the shops that led the charge have vanished, due in part I suspect to high operating costs. In short, I ask, “Are these signs of the future?” and, “Is Saugerties truly a value, or should our yearning to return home be outweighed by seemingly outrageous overhead?”

I happily anticipate learning the ins and outs of the Business & Development plan in town. One would expect that these include attracting businesses that will help supplement the tax base and optimize government overhead. Clearly, keys to any successful business, public or private sector, are planning, execution, cost-control and customer service. As customers of our government, I can only believe that as taxpayers we must be involved or stay involved. Without that participation, are we not destined to accept whatever we are handed?

Robert Keith

Springfield, Massachusetts

There are 5 comments

  1. Darlene Shapiro

    Well Robert, I was born in Saugerties. I remember when there was a bus terminal, a free ice skating rink and people had enough sense to shovel their walks after a storm. We all remember differently.
    The young left town years ago seeing that what little Saugerties had to offer would not a future make.
    I am happy about some things that have changed. But I don’t believe the antique shops ever attracted anyone.

  2. Claire H.L.

    Re the antique shops, we used to love strolling around those stores in Saugerties when we first moved near Woodstock in 2001, and furnished a fair bit of our home from them – and usually rounded out the afternoon with a meal in a Saugerties restaurant. But we have seen Saugerties steadily decline and without a great deal of surprise. From what I gathered, the antique shops didn’t get a lot of local support and the property taxes are ridiculous. When we moved house recently, moving out of the Saugerties tax net was a priority although we still have a small rental property just over the Woodstock/Saugerties border – an 800 square foot cottage which, like the properties noted in the article is taxed to the tune of close to $7,000 per year – more than half of what we charge in rent (a rent that has not gone up in three years due to the recession situation). If it wasn’t for the precipitous drop in home prices we would definitely sell it and thereby take yet another (barely) affordable rental off the market. I think it is so ironic that RUPCo is spending a fortune building “affordable” housing in Woodstock when the town of Saugerties (whose tax net stretches to within two miles of Woodstock) makes the provision of privately-owned affordable housing almost impossible. As it is, if our rental were to need any serious repairs or maintenance, we would be in trouble.

    Now reading about an almost 4 million dollar home paying just a fraction more than we are paying really makes me furious, especially knowing the extent of the slashing and burning that has gone on in the school district in recent years. In any case, taking school tax out of property is inequitable – close the loopholes and take it out of income spread over the whole State, not district by district. That way maybe we’ll actually have some parity from school to school and, hey, democracy in action.

  3. SinaS

    Does the Saugerties Times actually fact check any of this nonsense? I find it extremely irresponsible to print such a diatribe. Mr. Keith’s tax numbers are just plain wrong. I have been an independent appraiser in this area for 15 years and there is NO POSSIBLE WAY that those numbers are correct. I stake everything I own on it. Please Saug Times, do your due diligence and verify those numbers with the local taxing authority…i dare you! I can guarantee you that the writer pulled those numbers off the MLS and I can attest that realtors are not educated in taxes or assessments. A school tax bill alone on a $3.9million dollar property would be more than $67,000. Simple math…assessment x tax rate/$1000. 3900 x $17. (approximate rate)

    Also, according to NYS, when a commercial business is run on exempt property, that property no longer qualifies for exemptions. If you look at the 2011 Saug assessment roll online-Family of Woodstock does not qualify as wholly exempt. There is a farm building exemption, but other than that-its taxable land, as are the other two parcels they own up there.

    Bottom line-DON’T ever rely on your realtor/MLS for tax info. Do your own research!!

    1. Nick

      SINAS: I think you owe Robert Keith everything you own.

      The $3.9 M example is not fictional. The property in question is 50 Fite Road, better known as Opus 40.
      http://www.zillow.com/homedetails/50-Fite-Rd-Saugerties-NY-12477/32869043_zpid/

      Zillow uses tax payment history, not estimates, so it’s an interesting and accurate look into who pays what in taxes.

      115 Emerick Road: assessed at $1.2M, paid only $5,148 in taxes.
      28 Mynderse Street: assessed at $2.4M, paid $39,611.
      44-48 Kate Yaeger Rd: assessed at $824K, paid $14,033.
      280 Malden Tpke: assessed at $750K, paid $9,425.

      My own home was assessed at 1/3 of that last one, yet we paid the same taxes. My home is in the village, but still, something is wrong with the way taxes are assessed here.

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