Mayor: New Paltz is unaffordable

The following is a letter from New Paltz Mayor Tim Rogers:

I commend our New Paltz Board of Education for seeking community input as it undertakes searching for a new superintendent. I recently completed their quick four-question survey. Per the instructions, I checked off five boxes for what I would like to see in our next superintendent:

  1. subscribes to a whole child approach
  2. creates a positive school culture
  3. has effective communication skills
  4. experience managing a group of professionals as an equity-centered leader
  5. mastery of school finance and budgeting

However, there was a concept/sensibility that I would like emphasized that was not on the survey’s list.

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Our community has become unaffordable. We need to be mindful of how cumulative tax increases impact property owners as well as tenants who pay property taxes indirectly in their rent. State and local officials, including our school’s superintendent, must take into consideration that an individual’s personal expenses when aggregated with all the different property tax bills, drive community affordability.

During the last two years through 2019, New Paltz school taxes rose 8%. School taxes account for approximately two-thirds of our total property tax bills.

As a general rule, a household should spend no more than 30% of its monthly gross income on housing. Unfortunately, this is largely unrealistic for many in New Paltz. Two of our three Census tracts had median household incomes of $49,031 and $53,864 in 2017. These two Census tracts accounted for more than 67% of New Paltz’s 14,124 population. Additionally, both of these tracts had low response scores so actual incomes may skew even lower. See: https://www.census.gov/roam.

Homes in New Paltz commonly sell for $150 to $200 per square foot. Including the cost of borrowing at 3.8% for 30 years, 2019’s property tax rates (school, town, county and village), properties assessed at $350,000 would have to pay $2,935 monthly (or $35,220 annually) for just their mortgage and property taxes.

To have $35,220 available, a household would need a gross salary of at least $45,000, assuming a 26% marginal tax rate. However, much more than $45,000 would be needed to survive and afford things like food, utilities, transportation and health insurance.

Using these recent median household incomes of $49,031 and $53,864 from the Census for 67% of New Paltz’s 14,124 population, it seems clear that most residents simply cannot afford to live here.

Assemblymember Cahill and State Senator Metzger are already on record stating that they would like to change our archaic and unfair property tax system. But we cannot wait. We must do more locally.

Are there more ways to pursue shared services to save taxpayer money? New Paltz is ahead of the curve when it comes to sharing services where other communities are just considering how to consolidate policing or have highway and DPW departments work together across jurisdictions.

Could there be more collaboration between local governments and school districts? Each has their own responsibilities and provides unique services, but a more intentional approach to working collaboratively and saving money would be helpful. Yes, there are considerable legal barriers to this at the state level, but that should not stop us from identifying ways to save and figure out how to push NYS to change rules so we can achieve savings for our already overstressed taxpayers.

Our neighbors have entrusted us to figure out these challenging puzzles and they rightfully expect us to be smart and careful with their taxes. We owe it to our community.

I would like to see the Board of Education be extra mindful of our affordability problem during this superintendent search. Candidates need to discuss how they plan to balance high-quality school district programming while being as prudent as possible with our district that is largely funded by property taxes.

Mayor Tim Rogers

New Paltz

There are 5 comments

  1. Mickey Munday

    The former mayor used to say New Paltz was unaffordable because of the tax-exempt university. That wasn’t true either.

  2. Jarred

    Gee. Wonder why? One could think it is because the town has blocked the construction of a new CVS, a new Five Guys, created vast obsticles for new hotels, new development, and has even been the cause of leaving a brand new, unopened commercial and residential space vacant for 2-years now in the very heart of town. Then there’s the whole anti-building moratorium.

    See people, what happens when you actively force business out of a town, and you keep new business from coming into a town, you immediately cut off hundreds of thousands of dollars of new tax revenue; you cut off revenue from building permits; you kill hundreds of local construction jobs; you kill hundreds of long-term jobs for locals, you kill those wages, you kill those opportunities, you kill those locals from spending in our other local businesses.

    Yeah, it is fine and dandy to perch on your soap box about anti-growth and then turn and complain about how expensive it is to liove here, and the lack of jobs but if you buy into the whoops and cries of anti-growth activists this is exactly where you land.

    So New Paltz, town and citizens, you are now reaping the rewards of the bad faith you’ve sewn.

    1. Brette Harte

      Nothing gets built in the Town unless the Village Trustees/Fire Commissioners give it water. If anything proposed to be built in the Town needs Village water and sewer, then the Town Planning Board has to check with the Village first. That’s why the head of the Town Planning Board lives in the Village and not the Town.
      Did you know that a Village mayor can also be the Town assessor as well as the Town Supervisor all at the same time? It’s almost a novel.

  3. SP

    And perhaps the Board of Education should wisely rethink the $277,000 salary of the School Superintendent…which the taxpayers foot as well… look at all avenues people…

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