The amount of property taxes levied by a local government is determined by a simple equation. The total cost of providing government services minus total revenues from all other sources such as state aid and user fees equals the amount of money to be raised by property taxes. To cut property taxes, therefore, we must cut government expenditures or increase other revenues. In my two-and-one-half years on the county legislature I have voted many times to cut government costs. Many of these votes have been difficult, especially the ones involving layoffs. They were, however, necessary to keep the lid on taxes.
There are a number of easier things average citizens can do to help keep property taxes down. Allow me to mention three. The first is to renew your automobile registration and driver’s license at an Erie County DMV office, rather than through Albany. Erie County receives 12.7 percent of transactions done at the county’s DMV offices and only 4 percent of those done online at the New York State DMV’s website. This income helps reduce the amount we need to raise in property taxes.
Another way citizens can help reduce local property taxes is by recycling more. In the Tonawandas, for instance, both the city and the town pay a firm $45.39 per ton to dispose of the garbage after it is picked up at the curb. The local governments are able to avoid these costs when items are recycled. The Town of Tonawanda even gets back $10 per ton for its recyclables, making the total savings $55.39 per ton when people recycle.
The final way people can help keep property taxes down is something I have talked about many times in this column. Every time a student from Erie County attends another county’s community college we get a bill from the other county. This charge is then added to the taxes of the individual student’s city or town. These can really add up. The average homeowner in the City of Tonawanda, for instance, pays about $60 additional per year in county property taxes to cover these costs. There are many good reasons for Erie County residents to take courses at NCCC or other community colleges, especially if the desired course of study is not offered at ECC. But if students can get the classes they need at ECC and there are no other extenuating circumstances, we should encourage them to attend ECC. They will get a fantastic education and we will all save a few dollars on our property tax bills.
If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.