Thursday, December 31, 2009

Apology to Poughkeepsie Journal

I’ve written three blog posts this month critical of Poughkeepsie Journal reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian's coverage of the 2010 Dutchess County budget.  These three posts were in response to Lee-Adrian’s stories of December 10, 11, and 17.  The last of my three posts, Poughkeepsie Journal's Fuzzy Math, accused Lee-Adrian of imprecise arithmetic resulting in the publication of inaccurate tax rate increases.  It turns out that the math in the December 17 story was not fuzzy, and the numbers in the December 17 story are accurate after all.  I'm truly sorry to have mistakenly accused the Journal and Lee-Adrian of these errors.

How Did My Mistake Happen?

Short answer:  Faulty assumptions and failure to check them; a chance editorial simplification.
Long answer:  Keep reading.

December 10 Story

The first of my three posts, County Legislature Increases Tax Rate 14.3 Percent, criticized Lee-Adrian’s December 10 story because it didn’t mention tax rates or tax rate increases at all.  This post was very similar to half a dozen earlier posts I'd written on other local government jurisdictions, advocating for prominent coverage of tax rate increases by the Poughkeepsie Journal

December 11 Story

Lee-Adrian’s December 11 story included tax rates and the tax rate increase for the December 8 amendments by the Dutchess County Legislature.  The second of my three posts, Poughkeepsie Journal Gets It Almost Right, criticized this story because the included 14.6 percent tax rate increase was inaccurate.  Lee-Adrian had used rounded tax rates for her calculation of the tax rate increase, thus introducing errors.  In my conversation with Lee-Adrian before writing my second post, I suggested that she should use high precision tax data for her rate calculations, and to only round off for presentation, in order to avoid inaccuracies.  My suggestion was not accepted, and our conversation ended awkwardly.

Authoritative Source for Tax Levy

It’s worth noting that Lee-Adrian and I had both obtained the tax levy related to the legislative amendments from the same source:  Fred Knapp, assistant to Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins. Knapp is keeper of the numbers for the Legislature, according to Higgins.  In other words, our source for the tax levy was the key staff person designated by the Legislative Chairman as maintaining the tax data for the legislative branch of Dutchess County Government.  Since the tax levy pertains to the legislative amendments, for which the legislature is presumably the final arbiter, I assumed that the County Legislature is the most authoritative official source for the tax levy resulting from the legislative amendments.

My assumption was faulty.  The budget office in the executive branch of county government is much better equipped than the legislature to account for the detailed implications of legislative amendments to the budget.  It turns out the tax levy increase given to me by Knapp, though expressed to the exact dollar, was actually inaccurate by about $400,000, or 5 percent.  This fact comes into play in act three.

December 17 Story

Lee-Adrian’s December 17 story included tax levy and the tax rate increase for the December 8 legislative amendments, just as did the December 11 story, but there were some obvious differences in the numbers.  While the December 11 story stated the tax rate increase as being 14.6 percent, the December 17 story stated that the increase was 13.9 percent.  While the December 11 story gave the tax levy as “$103.4 million”, the December 17 story gave the tax levy as “103 million”.

My Incorrect Assumptions

Upon reviewing the December 17 story before writing the third of my three posts, Poughkeepsie Journal's Fuzzy Math, I assumed that Lee-Adrian was continuing to use rounded arithmetic on the same tax levy we’d both obtained from Knapp.  All the numbers in her December 17 story seemed consistent with these assumptions.  For example, I assumed that the “$103 million” tax levy was just Knapp’s $103,412,049 rounded to three significant figures.

My assumptions were wrong, despite the fact that they yielded a self-consistent explanation of Lee-Adrian’s December 17 story.  Lee-Adrian was no longer using the tax levy of $103,412,049 with which we’d both started, but a more authoritative tax levy of $102,996,772 provided by the budget office a few days earlier.  She also used high precision arithmetic on this new data.

The new tax levy displayed to four significant figures would have been “$103.0 million”.  If it had been displayed this way, I would have seen right away that she was using a different tax levy than the “$103.4 million” of her previous story.  This would have completely changed my understanding of what Lee-Adrian was doing.  It wasn’t until Lee-Adrian published a follow-up story on December 19 with the exact tax levy that I learned of my mistaken assumptions.  But it’s understandable that “$103.0 million” could have been edited to read “$103 million”.  The chance for such an editorial simplification arises only once in ten times.

Lessons Learned
  1. I should have attempted to check my assumptions with Lee-Adrian before posting my incorrect analysis of her December 17 story.  I should not have allowed my discomfort with our earlier conversation to govern my decision to bypass this important step.
  2. The budget office is a more authoritative source for county tax levy information than the county legislature.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Time to Declare Victory?

I've written over a dozen posts since September on the subject of Truth in Taxing, arguing that from the viewpoint of property taxpayers and other members of the public, the most important measure of property taxes is the tax rate and changes in the tax rate.  In this time of declining property values, government officials will strenuously avoid mentioning tax rates, because changes in the tax rate would show their budgets in the worst possible light.  I've suggested that news sources such as the Poughkeepsie Journal should make the importance of tax rate changes clear to their readers.  This can be accomplished by putting the tax rate increase in the headline, in the lead sentence, and in the sidebar information — not burying it in the tenth paragraph, or omitting it entirely.

Noticeable Improvement in Poughkeepsie Journal's Coverage
When I wrote Poughkeepsie Journal Fails Truth-in-Taxing Test two months ago, most recent Poughkeepsie Journal stories related to property taxes had not provided truth in taxing disclosures.  Since then, there's been a noticeable improvement.  Two weeks ago, reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian's stories on the Dutchess County's budget began to prominently mention tax rates and changes in tax rates.  Yesterday, reporter Michael Woyton's story, “Beacon tax rate up by 10% despite cuts in spending”, makes the tax rate increase the main story.  Even readers who just glance at these two stories can't miss the fact that taxes for Dutchess County and City of Beacon are going up.  My hearty congratulations to the Poughkeepsie Journal, Lee-Adrian, and Woyton for doing a great job of informing the public about what's really happening with property taxes.  I'm very pleased to see what's looking like a trend of significantly improved coverage.

Minor Criticism

Just one small criticism of Woyton's story:  Some readers may be puzzled that the Beacon tax rate could be going up while spending is down.  If the story had mentioned the fact that property values are going down, these readers might have understood better.

Should I Take Credit for Poughkeepsie Journal's Improved Coverage?

Short answer:  I haven't the faintest idea.
Long answer:  I wouldn't even be asking this question, except that I received a serious inquiry about this.  I have had a relatively small amount of direct communication with some Poughkeepsie Journal reporters.  Most of their responses to my critiques of the Journal's coverage were ambivalent at best.  I certainly haven't received any indication that my arguments would affect their reporting.

My view is that this is not an important question to answer.  To me, the important thing is that the Poughkeepsie Journal seems to have made a significant improvement in coverage of property tax matters.  Although this occurred after many of my blog posts, correlation does not imply causation.

Do I Owe the Poughkeepsie Journal an Apology?
My most recent post, Poughkeepsie Journal's Fuzzy Math, accused reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian of using a rounded tax levy to calculate an inaccurate tax rate and tax rate increase in a December 17 story on the County budget.  It turns out that the math was not fuzzy, and the numbers in this story may be accurate after all.  So I owe the Poughkeepsie Journal (and Lee-Adrian) an apology, right?

Maybe.  Like most things in life, the reality is more complicated than these simple facts would suggest.  I'm currently investigating how it happened that I got it wrong.  I will post an explanation to this blog as soon as possible.  Hopefully, that will be the last post I'll be moved to write on the subject of Truth in Taxing.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Poughkeepsie Journal's Fuzzy Math

The criticisms of the Poughkeepsie Journal and of reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian in this post are incorrect, and are hereby retracted.  For details, see Apology to Poughkeepsie Journal.

Be careful what you wish for. 

These words came to mind when I read today's front page story by Jenny Lee-Adrian in the Poughkeepsie Journal, “Steinhaus, Legislature plans differ on tax rates” (Online headline differs from print edition.)  There it is, right on the front page!  Everything I've been advocating for!  Tax rates in the headline.  Tax rate increase in the lead sentence.  And tax rates even in the caption of a photo of Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus, the caption informing readers that property tax would increase even under his original budget.  Best of all, the print edition includes a large table comparing the Legislature's amended budget with the result of recent Steinhaus vetoes. The column titles feature the tax rate increases in huge typefont, so they can't be missed, even by the casual reader.  You can hardly pick up the paper without seeing “13.9%” and “9.2%”.

This is just what I've been advocating for many months now in this blog (and in direct communications with Poughkeepsie Journal reporters).  The tax rate and the tax rate increase is the story, and I'm very glad that the Poughkeepsie Journal finally gets it.

Lee-Adrian's Calculations Are Inaccurate — Again

I wish I could stop here, with congratulations to the Poughkeepsie Journal, and drinks all around.  Unfortunately, the story is marred by inaccurate tax rate calculations by the Poughkeepsie Journal.  When I advocated for reporting on tax rate increases, it never occurred to me to say, “And by the way, when you publish those tax rate increases, consider publishing accurate ones.”  But I guess I should have.

Actually, I did.  I had a long telephone conversation on December 14 with Lee-Adrian regarding her December 11 story containing an amended county tax rate increase of 14.6 percent.  This rate increase is inaccurate because she used rounded tax rates.  I encouraged Lee-Adrian to use high precision tax data for her rate calculations, and to only round off for presentation, in order to avoid inaccuracies.  My recent post Poughkeepsie Journal Gets It Almost Right documents my analysis in more detail.

For today's story, Lee-Adrian apparently decided to recalculate the amended tax information already published.  This time, instead of using rounded tax rates, she used a rounded tax levy of $103,000,000, instead of the actual value of $103,412,049.  This made matters worse than before.

The thing is, when you start your calculation with rounded values, you introduce an error proportional to the difference between the rounded value and the unrounded value.  In this particular case, the rounded tax levy is nearly half a percent different from the exact value, thus introducing considerable inaccuracy.  Lee-Adrian's calculations using the rounded tax levy resulted in the following inaccuracies, all of which appear in today's story:
  1. “The Legislature budget's property tax levy would increase 8.9 percent.”  The correct value is 9.3 percent.
  2. “Under that budget, the property tax rate could increase 13.9 percent in 2010 ...”  The correct value is 14.3 percent, as I stated in this blog a week ago.
  3. “... to $2.89 per $1,000 of assessed value.”  The correct value is $2.91.  Lee-Adrian had already published this correct value in her December 11 story.  Why did she think she should change it?
Today's Story Gets Some Tax Information Right — By Accident

Today's story also contains corresponding tax information regarding the effect of the Steinhaus vetoes, culminating in the statement that “the property tax rate could increase 9.2 percent”.  Are all these numbers inaccurate also?  No.  Although Lee-Adrian presumably used the rounded tax levy of $98.8 million, it just so happens that the rounded tax levy differs from the true tax levy in this case by less than one part in ten thousand.  This good luck allows all the published results regarding the Steinhaus vetoes to be correct.

Who Is Responsible For the Calculated Tax Information?

The December 11 story stated that the (inaccurate) 14.6 percent tax rate increase was provided by the Legislative staff, but Lee-Adrian confirmed to me that she calculated it herself.  Today's story states the following:
The Journal calculated the 2010 property-tax rates for the Legislature budget and a budget with vetoes based on numbers Steinhaus released Tuesday. Legislature staff confirmed the 2010 tax rates were correct. The County Executive's Office did not respond.
I spoke today with Fred Knapp, assistant to Legislative Chairman Roger Higgins.  My understanding of our conversation is that Knapp had indeed spoken with Lee-Adrian about these tax numbers, but that he did not confirm the correctness of her calculations.  Knapp seemed to be well aware of the necessity of preserving precision in tax rate calculations, and he graciously provided me with the exact tax levy changes needed to perform the high-precision calculations.

Credibility Gap

It hardly needs saying that the credibility of the Poughkeepsie Journal suffers if it publishes two different tax rate increases (14.6 percent and 13.9 percent) for the same amended budget, and both numbers are wrong.  This is especially true since it just isn't that hard to get it right.  I'm extremely pleased to see that the Poughkeepsie Journal has finally published the County tax rate increase information.  But is it too much to ask that they publish the correct numbers?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Poughkeepsie Journal Gets It Almost Right

A front-page story in the December 11-th Poughkeepsie Journal by reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian, headlined “Taxpayers fume over planned rate hike,” on property taxes for Dutchess County Government, focuses attention where it belongs:  On the tax rate and the tax rate increase.  This story is a marked improvement over most of the Poughkeepsie Journal's past coverage of local property tax issues, of which I have been highly critical.  In my post Poughkeepsie Journal Fails Truth-in-Taxing Test, I state:
Readers of the Poughkeepsie Journal need the tax rate and change in tax rate in order to understand the essence of what's happening. This means they need the change in the tax rate in the headline itself, in the lead sentence, and possibly also in the sidebar information — not buried in the tenth paragraph, or omitted entirely.
Lee-Adrian's story comes closer to meeting this standard than any other local property tax story I've seen in the Poughkeepsie Journal in recent months, though there is still some room for improvement.
  1. The headline alludes to the fact that the planned tax rate would increase.  Good.  Even better would be to mention the amount (percent) of tax rate increase in the headline.
  2. The lead sentence is, “Amid an economy in crisis, Dutchess County residents are outraged their county property tax rate would increase by 14.6 percent next year.” [emphasis added]  Lee-Adrian gets full credit for stating the tax rate increase in the lead sentence.  Unfortunately for readers, the actual percent increase is 14.3.  Although her story claims that the 14.6 value was provided by “the Legislative staff,” Lee-Adrian has confirmed that she calculated the percent increase herself, and that she used rounded tax rates.  Using rounded tax rates introduces noticeable inaccuracies.  This is why the tax rate increase in her story is inaccurate.  My calculation uses the high-precision tax rates that would be used to compute individual tax bills.
  3. The sidebar information (in the print edition) displays the property tax rates, not only for 2009 and the amended 2010 tax years, but even for tax years going back to 2006.  It even displays the budgets and property tax levies for all years.  Good, and good.  Even better would be to display the tax rate increases (percents) from one year to the next.  In my view, the tax rate increases are more important than, for example, the tax levy information that is included in the sidebar.
  4. The story mentions the fact that the original Steinhaus budget increases the tax rate “... from $2.54 in 2009 to $2.66 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2010.”  This is a key piece of information when comparing to the county legislature's amendments, and it's good that it appears in the story.  Unfortunately, this quote is buried in the 14-th paragraph of the story, on the second page continuation in both the print and web editions.  Even more important than this quote is the fact that the Steinhaus budget represents a 4.6 percent increase in the tax rate.  This crucial fact appears nowhere in this story (and as far as I know, in no other Poughkeepsie Journal story).   In my view, readers should have been informed upfront that while the legislative amendments yield a tax rate increase of 14.3 percent, Steinhaus' original budget yields a tax rate increase of 4.6 percent.
How To Encourage Publication of Tax Rate Increases?
    A possible outcome of my criticism of Lee-Adrian's tax rate increase calculation (Item 2 above) is that Poughkeepsie Journal reporters (if they read my blog) will be discouraged from publishing property tax rate increases.  This would achieve the exact opposite of my purpose.  I can think of two obvious ways to avoid this outcome:
    1. Reporters can calculate tax rate increases correctly, just by using high-precision tax rates.  A high-precision tax rate is simply the exact tax levy divided by the exact market value.  And be sure to retain all significant figures in the quotient!
    2. Reporters can request public officials to do this calculation for them.  However, reporters should be prepared for significant resistance on the part of public officials, because the officials know that tax rate information puts the tax situation in the most unfavorable light in a time of decreasing property values.  Officials much prefer to focus on tax levies and typical tax bills, which make the tax situation seem not as bad as it really is.
    My hope is that the Poughkeepsie Journal will employ some combination of the above methods to provide its readers with tax rate increase data essential to an informed public.

    Thursday, December 10, 2009

    County Legislature Increases Tax Rate 14.3 Percent

    A front-page story in today's Poughkeepsie Journal by reporter Jenny Lee-Adrian, headlined “Legislature OKs Budget, Raises Property Tax Levy”, features a prominent diagram (in the print edition) with the following contents:
    • What Steinhaus Proposed:  0% property tax levy increase
    • What County Legislature Changed:  9.4% property tax levy increase
    So why does the title of this post say “14.3 percent”?  If you've been following this blog the last few months, you already know the answer.  It's because the Poughkeepsie Journal (and Steinhaus, and the legislators) are talking about tax levy, and I'm talking about tax rate.  As I've argued repeatedly in this blog, the most important thing for taxpayers is the tax rate.  The tax levy is just smoke, designed to make the increase seem smaller than it really is.  If I were writing this news story, my diagram would say:
    • What Steinhaus Proposed:  4.6% property tax rate increase
    • What County Legislature Changed:  14.3% property tax rate increase
    Both property tax rate increases are with respect to the 2009 tax rate of $2.54 per thousand dollars of market value.  Steinhaus' proposed 2010 tax rate is $2.66, and the legislature's is $2.91.  These numbers are easy to compute from the property tax levies mentioned in the story.  As I mentioned in my earlier post on this subject, the reason the tax rates increase more than the tax levies is that the market value of Dutchess County has decreased by four and a half percent in the last year.

    One can hardly blame the politicians for trying to put the best face on a bad situation, but the Poughkeepsie Journal could do a better job of informing its readers.  Property taxpayers are in for a lot worse news than they'd think by reading the Poughkeepsie Journal.

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    Gephard Elected Fairview Fire Commissioner

    The election held today for commissioner in the Fairview Fire District was officially uncontested, in the sense that only one name was on the ballot (Bob Gephard).  However, there have been persistent rumors of a secret write-in campaign, and the results appear to validate this rumor:  Of the 141 votes cast, Gephard received 110 votes, or 78 percent, and write-in “candidate” John Anspach received 29 votes, or 21 percent.  Of the remaining 2 votes, one was blank and the other was written in as “Robert L. Rogers”.  I obtained these results this evening as an official poll watcher for Gephard.

    In my view, what is significant about these results is the large number of votes cast in an uncontested election, and the relatively large percentage of the votes for a single write-in “candidate”.  To better understand these results, it's necessary to know the recent history of the Fairview Fire District.

    2008 Election
    Fire district elections typically have very small turnouts, and the Fairview Fire District has been no exception — until 2008.  In early 2008, an advocacy group called Fairness for Fairview formed, and became instrumental in bringing over 400 angry residents and taxpayers to the April 24, 2008, Fairview Fire Commissioners meeting.  Most of these residents and taxpayers had no previous knowledge about fire district governance.  All they knew was that their taxes were sky high. (I was one of these residents/taxpayers.)  In the months following the April 24 meeting, some of the more outspoken residents and taxpayers continued to show up at commissioners meetings.  These newly interested residents/taxpayers continued to challenge the commissioners, who were all veterans with years or decades of experience running the fire district.  These challenges culminated in the 2008 election between incumbent Dick Martineau and resident/taxpayer Jill Line.  Line was seen as representing “newcomers” to Fairview Fire District (FFD) governance, that is, residents not previously associated with FFD.

    To put the 2008 election into perspective, you need to understand that in 2007, Fairview had an uncontested election in which only 22 voters turned out. These voters tended to be the 5 commissioners and many of the firefighters and officers of the district. In the 2008 election, incumbent Martineau received 79 votes — more than three and a half times the entire voter turnout the previous year.  Martineau's total represented a concerted effort by supporters of the veteran commissioners to prevent a shift in power to the newcomers. But Martineau's support was no match for the wrath of the newcomers. A massive outpouring of voters gave Line 190 votes, or 70 percent of all votes cast.  Line's total almost certainly would have been even greater, except for the fact that dozens of voters turned away upon encountering long lines.  Many who stayed to vote stood on line for an hour or more.

    2009 Election

    In my view, the 2009 election shows a continuation of the conflicts between supporters of veteran commissioners and supporters of the newcomers.  Gephard is seen as representing the newcomers, while Anspach is seen as representing the veterans.  Indeed, Anspach has served on the board of fire commissioners for 30 years, including at least the last 5 as chairman.  For me and many others who've come to learn about FFD only recently, Anspach represents the heart and soul of the old guard, for better or for worse, depending on your point of view.  With Anspach leaving the board, there will be a significant power vacuum.  (Anspach plans to continue his dedicated service as Fairview volunteer and chief safety officer.)

    Some may theorize from the election results that Anspach has attempted to engineer a secret campaign to win reelection.  This theory makes no sense to me.  In the first place, if Anspach had wanted to continue as commissioner, the first thing he would have done would have been to get on the ballot.  As incumbent chairman of the board, he would have had a much better chance of reelection than as a write-in candidate.  In the second place, Anspach has consistently stated throughout the campaign that he will not challenge Gephard.  And in the third place, Anspach told me after the polls closed that he did not vote for himself!  Case closed.  In effect, Anspach has given Gephard his blessing to take over as a commissioner.

    Still, the 29 votes for Anspach as a write-in candidate demands an explanation.  This number of votes is considerably more than the total number of votes in the uncontested 2007 election. In my view, these votes come from the same supporters of the veteran commissioners who attempted to reelect Martineau last year, and who fear the shift in power to the newcomers.  These supporters of the status quo agreed to write in Anspach's name despite his non-candidacy.  They could reasonably have hoped that with so many votes for Anspach, Gephard could fail to gain a majority.  After all, it is this group which controlled the election until 2008.

    Gephard had the political sense to be wary that he might lose this election even though he was the only candidate on the ballot.  In my view, it is only because Gephard conducted an aggressive campaign, distributing fliers to most Fairview residents, and working hard to get out the vote, that he assured himself of victory.  I can believe that many of those who showed up to vote for Gephard today didn't know that the election was “uncontested”.  Considering the secret write-in campaign, maybe it wasn't.

    2010 Election

    In the contest between the veterans and the newcomers, the handwriting is on the wall. In the last two elections, it's newcomers 2, veterans 0.  Next year, Commissioner Tom Ashline's term expires.  If Ashline seeks reelection and is challenged by a newcomer, he might have a difficult time winning, simply because he will be seen as representing the veterans.  His best strategy may be to show voters now that he represents their interests, in hopes that no newcomer will become a candidate to challenge him.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    Proposed County Budget Increases Tax Rate 4.6 Percent

    If you've been following reports about the Dutchess County 2010 Tentative Budget, you probably know that Dutchess County Executive William Steinhaus' plan freezes the 2010 property tax levy at the 2009 level.  This plan makes it sound as though taxes won't be going up. Great news for property taxpayers in these difficult economic times, right?
    Wrong! In reality, the plan calls for a 4.6 percent increase in the property tax rate, from $2.54 to $2.66 per thousand dollars of market value.  And the tax rate is all that matters.  You can verify the 2009 and projected 2010 tax rates yourself from the County's table, Property Tax Levy & Rate.  (For details, see below.)  The tax rate increase occurs because even though the tax levy holds steady, the market value of Dutchess County has fallen four and a half percent in the last year.

    Why haven't you heard about the Dutchess County tax rate increase before?  Because government officials don't want to talk about it.  Better to talk about the tax levy, or the typical tax bill, since they make the tax hike sound smaller than it really is.  It's just one more example of the dirty little secret of property taxes. I've written about this secret so many times in this blog that I've lost count.  For a summary of how the Poughkeepsie Journal has failed to pick up on this story in half a dozen local jurisdictions (each of which I've blogged about separately), see Poughkeepsie Journal Fails Truth-in-Taxing Test.

    Steinhaus Press Release Misleads

    It's understandable that Steinhaus would not want to mention the 4.6 percent tax rate increase in his budget.    But it's disingenuous for him to introduce tax rates into a misleading characterization of opponents' proposals.  In a December 4 press release, Steinhaus is quoted  as saying:
    County legislators must now make the final choice either to focus on satisfying requests for more spending from special interest groups and raise county property taxes nearly 22 percent to fund all of these programs, or they can choose to control spending to keep property taxes flat.
    This statement is more than a little misleading.  The 22 percent number is correct only if it refers to the total increase in the property tax rate from 2009, including both the 4.6 percent increase in the Steinhaus budget and the legislators' additions, which alone comprise only a 16 percent increase.  The “keep property taxes flat” cannot refer to any tax rate, because the tax rate is not flat under Steinhaus' budget. So it's not 22 versus zero.  It's either 22 versus 4.6, or 16 versus zero.  Take your pick.

    The Steinhaus press release concludes with the following statement:
    Last year, the Democrat Majority adopted a budget that raised county property taxes an unprecedented 11% to respond to special interest demands.  County property taxpayers simply cannot afford a 22% tax increase again this year.
    One can determine from the Property Tax Levy & Rate that the county property tax rate increased 11 percent from 2008 to 2009.  Whether county taxpayers can afford a 22 percent tax (rate) increase again this year is debatable.  However, Steinhaus apparently thinks they can afford a 4.6 percent tax rate increase, because that's what he's proposing.

    Verifying the Tax Rate Increase:  In the table, Property Tax Levy & Rate, note that “True Value Assessments” is another name for “market value”.  The property tax rate is simply the property tax levy divided by the market value and multiplied by $1,000.  The property tax rates in this table are measured in dollars per thousand dollars of market value.  You should ignore the misleading note at the bottom of this table, 
    Comparisons of rates from year to year are not valid because of equalization rate adjustments.  
    Comparisons of these county property tax rates from year to year are perfectly valid. Furthermore, equalization rate adjustments have no effect on any of the numbers in this table.  I have determined that this misleading statement has appeared in County budget documents for many years, unchallenged until my conversations today with County officials.  I am happy to report that Dutchess County Director of Real Property Tax Service Agency Kathy Myers has assured me she will work with the Budget Office to “clarify” this statement in future years.