Gloversville tops list of highest tax rates

GLOVERSVILLE – City property owners pay the highest tax rate found in any city in the state, according to a report by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

Residents of the city and Gloversville Enlarged School District pay a combined city, school and Fulton County tax rate of $52.40 per $1,000 of assessed value, the study showed.

The city is 43 cents ahead of the second- highest-taxed city, which is Binghamton, the study says.

The median home value in Gloversville is $70,600, and the tax on that home would be $3,699, the study shows.

“With school budget votes just two weeks away, it’s important for voters to understand what their tax rates are and how that rate relates to what others in their region and in the state are paying,” Empire Center Director Tim Hoefer said in the study.

Gloversville made the top 10 list twice. City property owners who pay Johnstown school district taxes landed in the ninth spot.

Fulton County documents show residents of Gloversville pay $21.71 per $1,000 of assessed value in city taxes and $9.71 per $1,000 in county taxes. County documents also show residents of the city in the Gloversville Enlarged School District pay $21.46 per $1,000. Gloversville residents who pay Johnstown school taxes pay $15.52 per $1,000.

Gloversville is at 92.72 percent of its constitutional taxing limit, according to a September report by the state comptroller’s office.

The Empire Center report, released Wednesday, follows a 2012 report in the Business Review out of Latham that showed Gloversville has the highest poverty rate in the state, based on a category of census data. According to census data reported on the U.S. Census website, the percentage of “persons below poverty level” in Gloversville is 27.5 percent, compared with the statewide percentage of 14.2 percent.

Residents of the city of Amsterdam who pay Amsterdam school taxes were ranked 21st in the Empire Center study, with an effective, or combined, tax rate of $43.04 per $1,000.

Neighboring Johnstown was ranked 39th in the study. Residents there who pay Johnstown school taxes pay an effective tax rate of $36.79.

Mayor Dayton King said taxes are too high in the city, but he attributed them to things that have happened in the past regarding development and business.

“I think we are certainly overtaxed and I don’t feel responsible for the situation we’re in, but I do feel responsible for the solution,” King said.

He said when he was running for office in 2009, he learned many of the leather business owners wouldn’t allow other business to come into the area years ago because they didn’t want new businesses to take away workers.

“Those leather business owners were politicians and sat on the water board and made it so it couldn’t happen,” King said.

He said when the arterial began to develop during the 1960s, the Common Council allowed water and sewer to be sent out of the city to the town of Johnstown for the plaza that holds the current Walmart and Hanaford when it should have been annexed.

“All of that development should have been annexed into the city and we would be having a lot more sales tax and commercial property tax and our rate wouldn’t be nearly as high,” King said. “Those are the factors that got us here and I think what we need to do now is stop sending more water and sewer out of the city.”

He said the Common Council no longer will allow city services to be provided to neighboring municipalities without being annexed.

King said he doesn’t see any relief coming from the governor’s office, so the only hope the city has to lower the rate is to continue to grow the city and try to share services with neighboring municipalities.

“The three municipalities in the heart of the county should be one city sharing revenue and expenses,” King said.

The Gloversville Enlarged School District Board of Education approved a proposed budget for the 2013-14 school year that calls for a tax-levy increase of 2 percent. It will go to voters later this month.

Gloversville school board President Pete Semione said today he believes the school district’s taxes are in line with everything that needs to be done for the students of the district.

“There are a lot of unfunded mandates that we have to pay and our tax base is dwindling, which puts a bigger burden on a few,” Semione said. “We have been exploring regional plans to try to be more efficient and cut cost. Our goal is always to keep it below the 2 percent cap, which we have done the last few years, but Fulton County is a tough region.”

Semione explained that because the district’s costs are constantly going up through mandates and other expenses, and with the state and federal aid being lowered or staying at current levels, he doesn’t expect taxes to go down.

“It would be nice, but I don’t see that happening,” Semione said. “I don’t see the local burden getting any easier.”

Gloversville property owners pay one of the lowest county tax rates in Fulton County, according to county documents.

William Waldron, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors, said he believes taxes are too high in the county, but the county has made cuts to save money.

“We have done everything we possibly can to save money,” Waldron said. “Basically, the only thing we are really left with is state-mandated programs, so we don’t have any ability to really lower our tax rate. What we are striving for now is economic development to get more companies to come to the area to provide better jobs and opportunities for people.”

He said he doesn’t see any tax relief coming in the immediate future.

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said, “Property taxes are one of the biggest impediments we have to address. One of the biggest problems we have in upstate New York is the way New York handles the Medicaid system.”

Stead explained the taxes in this area are the highest in the state and nation because the state requires local counties to pay for Medicaid.

Fulton County government is starting its 2014 budget process and thinking about the possible need to override the state-mandated property-tax cap. The Board of Supervisors’ Finance Committee last week scheduled a public hearing to adopt a law that would authorize the override.

The Empire Center study did not include New York City tax rates.

Levi Pascher can be reached by email at