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:
- subscribes to a whole child approach
- creates a positive school culture
- has effective communication skills
- experience managing a group of professionals as an equity-centered leader
- 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.
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