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Gloversville close to property-tax limit

October 6, 2012
By LEVI PASCHER , The Leader Herald

GLOVERSVILLE - The city is closer to its constitutional taxing limit than any other city in upstate New York.

Gloversville is at 92.72 percent of its taxing limit on the total amount of property tax it can raise, according to a September report by the state Comptroller's Office.

"The city has been close to its constitutional tax limits ever since I have been here," Commissioner of Finance Bruce VanGenderen, who took the position seven years ago, said. "We have tried to keep the tax rate under control, yet we still always fall around that constitutional limit."

VanGenderen said the city hasn't been able to reduce the property-tax rate significantly. He explained the only way that would change is if property values in the city were to dramatically increase and tax rates stayed the same or if tax rates went down.

Currently, the city has a tax rate of $21.71 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Under the state constitution, the report said, a city is limited in the amount of property taxes it can impose.

However, the city is further away from the constitutional taxing limit than it was a year ago, when it was at 97 percent.

"The economy is very low and we don't have much sales tax revenue, so that is why the property-tax rate is so high right now," 4th Ward Councilwoman Ellen Anadio said. "Over the last few years, we have been working to be very conservative with spending city money."

In 2010, the city also had one of the highest poverty rates in the state, at 27.5 percent, according to the report. The state average was 14.2 percent.

Gloversville had the seventh-highest poverty rate in upstate New York, behind Binghamton, Utica, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Ithaca.

Ithaca's rate was the highest in the state, but the rate is affected by the large number of college students who live there, according to the report.

Neighboring cities were also above the average state poverty rate. Johnstown's rate was 20.9 percent, and Amsterdam's was 18 percent.

Gloversville, which is located in a county that has a 10.6 percent unemployment rate, saw its population decrease by 2,171 people from 1980 to 2010, the report shows.

VanGenderen said the city is seeing little growth in the tax base.

"When you have a lot of blight and houses being torn down or going up for sale, your tax base isn't growing," he said.

VanGenderen said the city faces increased costs for police, fire, Department of Public Works and the general running of the city.

He said the new Walmart being built in the city off South Kingsboro Avenue may help the tax base, depending on the final assessed value of that property.

"I don't really see any other growth in assessed values in the city unless something else occurs that we don't even know about right now," VanGenderen said. "It can be difficult to maintain what a city already has because things like New York state retirement systems, health insurance and cost of living for city employees go up almost every year significantly."

Due to property taxes being so high in the state, legislation was enacted in 2011 limiting cities to a 2 percent annual cap on property tax-levy increases.

"We are trying to bring new businesses to the area to have property taxes dropped over time," 6th Ward Councilman Wrandy Siarkowski said. "We understand as a council that we are nearing the limit and have been fighting very hard to make sure it gets down to a reasonable level.

"This administration and council is very aware of cost," he said. "The councils I have been associated with have been very cost conscious right from the beginning. In my opinion, no one in the council has tried to spend city money foolishly here."

Mayor Dayton?King did not return calls seeking comment for this story.



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