September 18, 2009

Gillibrand Unveils New Effort to Provide Property Tax Relief for Rochester/Finger Lakes Region

Gillibrand Proposes Increasing Federal Dollars For Water Infrastructure And Fully Funding Federal Education Mandates

Rochester, NY - U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today unveiled a new effort to provide property tax relief to thousands of middle-class families in the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region. As Senator Gillibrand tours New York discussing the economy, one of the biggest concerns among families and homeowners is high property taxes. Community leaders express frustration about finding ways to finance expensive water infrastructure projects and handling unfunded federal mandates. Without the support from the federal government, communities are forced to raise local taxes on residents.

"For many, owning a home is the American Dream. But crippling taxes coupled with high energy costs prevents many individuals from ever making that dream a reality," Senator Gillibrand said. "Reducing property taxes is no easy feat. Yet more and more families have been struggling to pay these rising costs and some have already left for other states. In order to sustain New York's workforce, character and people, the federal government must play its part to assist local communities address the burden of high property taxes."

According to calculations based on data from the Tax Foundation and the U.S. Census, nearly 193,000 homeowners in the Rochester/Finger Lakes Region do not itemize their taxes and therefore cannot deduct their property taxes. If they could, individuals could potentially save more than $120 million, collectively. 










































Today, Senator Gillibrand launched a new effort to provide property tax relief in New York State.

1. Increase Funding For Water Infrastructure:
Across New York, communities are burdened by antiquated water systems that do not adequately serve residents or businesses. According to reports released by the New York State Department's of Health and Environmental Conservation, New York will need at least $75 billion for repairing, replacing, and updating aging drinking water and wastewater infrastructure. Senator Gillibrand is working to ensure that local taxpayers aren't stuck footing the bill for New York's failing infrastructure.

As a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee, Senator Gillibrand is playing a leading role on the Water Infrastructure Financing Act. Senator Gillibrand helped secure $20 billion nationwide for the Clean Water Revolving Fund over the next five years.  The current authorization was set at a mere $600 million. The legislation also authorized $14.7 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Funds over the next five years.  The current authorization that expired in 2003 was authorized at only $1 billion per year.

Last year, New York received just over $75 million from the Clean Water Revolving Fund.  Under this legislation, New York would receive $244 million next year - an increase of more than $168 million dollars.  This will go a long way to rebuild failing water infrastructure, create thousands of jobs and reduce the local property tax burden.

In addition, Senator Gillibrand worked to ensure that poor communities within larger urban areas are eligible to receive additional support reserved for disadvantaged communities, including low interest loans, loan forgiveness, negative interest rates and increased subsidization.

2. Fully Fund Federal Education Mandates:
Senator Gillibrand believes education is another area where the federal government can do more to reduce the burden on property taxpayers. Rochester has one of the best education systems in the country, but it comes at a high price. Federal programs do more harm than good when they are left unfunded, putting an additional burden on property taxpayers, who must ultimately make up the shortfall.

One way to balance the cost and quality of education is to fully fund federal programs like No Child Left Behind and special education. For example, special education requirements are particularly onerous and remain underfunded.  When the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) was enacted, it was supposed to be funded at the 40 percent level but has never been funded above 20 percent.  Special education costs increase every year and New York State has additional requirements that drive cost even higher, adding an estimated $1.3 billion more annually.

3. Make Property Taxes Tax Deductible for Individuals Who Don't Itemize
Senator Gillibrand introduced bipartisan legislation with Senator Evan Byah (D-IN) this summer that would expand and make permanent federal property tax relief for New Yorkers who do not itemize their federal tax deductions. The enhanced deduction would offer new tax relief for up to 30 million homeowners across the country.

Prior to 2008, only taxpayers who itemized their deductions could claim a deduction for state and local property taxes. Last summer, as part of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act, Congress temporarily allowed non-itemizing taxpayers to deduct their property taxes. However, this deduction was capped at only $500 and will expire at the end of this year. Senator Gillibrand's legislation would lift the caps and makes the property tax relief permanent.

The current tax code favors filers who itemize, because it allows taxpayers to take advantage of property tax deductions that are unavailable to non-itemizing taxpayers.  The benefit of this legislation would vary according to the value of their home and their tax rate. For example:

  • A non-itemizing family with $75,000 of taxable income and a $3,000 property tax bill would receive a $750 tax cut this year-$500 more than under current law;
  • A non-itemizing single taxpayer with $50,000 of taxable income and a $2,000 property tax bill would receive a $300 tax cut-$225 more than under current law;
  • A non-itemizing senior citizen on a fixed income of $35,000 per year and a $1,500 property tax bill would see a $225 tax cut-$150 more than under current law.