A central part of our mission at Eagle Newspapers is to report on local government and help our readers better understand how their town, village or school district operates. To that end, we dedicate a fair amount of time and newsprint each fall to detail the coming year’s budget so homeowners will know what to expect when they open their tax bills.
Tax rates are generally calculated as a dollar amount per $1,000 of assessed value. For several years, town comptrollers and supervisors have presented changes to their tax rates using the model of a home worth $100,000.
That makes the math as simple as moving the decimal point in the tax rate just a couple places to the right for someone trying to figure out what their town property taxes will be next year.
The neat figure of $100,000 also allows local leaders to present tax increases in a more positive light: Politicians can advertise the tax increase based on the value of an inexpensive home, rather than on the value of an average home.
But these days, the average home is worth considerably more than $100,000.
According to real estate website Zillow.com, the median home value in Onondaga County is $142,000. The oft-quoted $100,000 figure could be useful to a resident of the city of Syracuse, where the median home value is $92,200, but most Eagle readers live in the suburbs, where property values have a significantly wider range.
Here are the median home values for the towns Eagle Newspapers covers in Onondaga County, according to Zillow.com:
- • Camillus: $165,300
- • Cicero: $156,000
- • Clay: $150,000
- • DeWitt: $168,900
- • Elbridge: $144,400
- • Geddes: $126,100
- • Lysander: $209,900
- • Manlius: $205,500
- • Marcellus: $169,300
- • Salina: $130,700
- • Skaneateles: $336,300
- • Spafford: $295,900
- • Van Buren: $159,700
Despite this data, most of the towns we cover still offered up a picture of the 2020 tax bill for a $100,000. To their credit, officials in the town of Lysander featured in their 2020 budget presentation the tax impact on a home worth $200,000 — considerably closer to Zillow’s median home value for that town.
It’s time for municipalities to update their budget models to reflect the true value of homes in each community.
Sure, it might mean local politicians and journalists will have to flex a bit more mathematical muscle in presenting the information, but a little effort could go a long way in easing the sticker shock some Central New Yorkers feel when they open their tax bills.