New York State Exposed Follow-up: Leaving New York to get ahead

Posted at: 11/18/2013 7:03 AM
Updated at: 11/18/2013 7:01 PM

Why are property taxes so high? Homeowners in our area can pay five to six times as much in property taxes as people with similar homes down south.

News10NBC looked at identical homes and compared what we're paying here to what some homeowners are paying down south. One reason why is it comes down to how we pay for our public schools. 

Raymond Pease knows what he pays in property tax at his home. The shock comes when News10NBC shows him what people outside New York State pay in property taxes for a similar house. 

To investigate, News10NBC went to the website, realtor.com and searched identical homes in suburban Rochester, Tennessee, North Carolina and Texas. Raymond's house in Perinton with its $7,000 plus in property taxes and plopped it down in Austin, Texas, the property taxes would be $3,700. Put it in Nashville, Tennessee and they would be $1,200. If you put it in Charlotte, North Carolina, the property taxes would be just $1,000.

Why do you pay so much less than we pay in Rochester? The answer, mostly, is local schools. News10NBC found that property taxes make up 33 percent of the total school budget. In North Carolina, it's only 22 percent. But in New York, it is much higher. In Greece, property taxes make up 48 percent of the school budget and in Fairport, it is 60 percent. In Pittsford, property taxes make up 77 percent of the school budget. 

Scott Covell, Assistant Superintendent for Business, Fairport CSD, said, “The primary factor in funding schools is property taxes. We wish New York State provided more money to schools so we didn't have to burden the property taxpayers as much as we do compared to other states.”

This year, New York State is spending $21 billion on education. Mark Johns represents the Perinton homeowners in the New York State Assembly. News 10NBC asked him if there is anything that can be done to lower the burden on property taxpayers?

Assemblyman Mark Johns said, “Well, what we're trying to do here in New York State moving forward is cut some of the costs. We can't just arbitrarily say we're going to cut taxes.”

But what if we looked at this in terms of value?

Jody Siegle is the President of the Monroe County School Board Association. She says some school districts down south are countywide, so the counties pay for things like building maintenance and pensions. Some schools in other states also make students pay to play sports or be in the band. 

Jody Siegle, Monroe County School Board Assoc. said, “And if you want bussing, you have to pay for that above and beyond your school taxes.”

State law says that can't happen here. Realtor.com rates local schools near home. The schools for homes in Perinton gets 8's, 9's and 10's. In Tennessee, the schools get 5's. The schools in North Carolina get the same local scores. So that's why homeowners like Dick and Paulette Sonner can stomach the $6,000 in property taxes they pay. 

Paulette Sonner, lives in Perinton, said, “We've had children go through the schools here. We get wonderful services in the town of Perinton.”

Raymond Pease thinks about his neighbor who just moved to Tennessee. 

News10NBC's Berkeley Brean said, “Do you envy your neighbor who's gone down to Tennessee and is paying a fraction of what he paid here?”

Pease said, “From a tax stand point? Absolutely I am. I envy that. From a location, I can't beat this. I still love New York State.”

Schools in Tennessee spend an average of $5,600 per student. In North Carolina and Texas, it's about $8,400. In Fairport and Greece, it's $16,500 per student. In Pittsford, it's almost $19,000 per student and that's the state average. The average graduation rate in the 18 suburban and rural school districts in Monroe County is 91 percent, that's 20 points higher than the national average.