Friday, October 16, 2009

City of Poughkeepsie Proposes 5 to 7 Percent Tax Increase

If you've been reading this blog lately, you've read posts like this one too many times already. Well, I think five times is too many. For at least the sixth time in recent weeks, the Poughkeepsie Journal has reported a story related to property taxes in which the most important part of the story is obscured or omitted entirely. The most important part of a story on property taxes is the tax rate, and changes in the tax rate.

In this case, the story about the City of Poughkeepsie by reporter Michael Valkys in today's web edition of the Poughkeepsie Journal is entitled “Budget plan avoids layoffs, may cut taxes for some.” In the print edition, the front page title in the Mid-Hudson section reads, “City budget plan avoids layoffs,” with the title on the page 2 continuation reading, “CITY: Some would pay less in taxes.” The second sentence in the story describes a budget “that officials said calls for property tax decreases for many homeowners ... ”. City officials have gone about as far as they can go without actually lying, to make it seem as though taxes are going down. Their message is not technically false, but is totally misleading.

The Real Story

The real story is that the City of Poughkeepsie property tax rate would increase 5 to 7 percent, as I've titled this post. That's 5 percent for homesteads and 7 percent for non-homestead (commercial) properties. The 5 percent number actually appears in Tkazyik's 4-page letter to the Common Council as 4.79 percent, though it's buried at the bottom of the third page. The 7 percent number can be computed from the non-homestead tax rates mentioned in a side-bar to the story. Neither number is mentioned in the Poughkeepsie Journal story.

Ironically, the only tax rate changes mentioned in the story are those of “competing” cities in other counties: The story claims that the City of Newburgh proposed an 82.5 percent property tax increase for homeowners, and the City of Kingston a 10 percent increase. Why didn't the story mention the 5 percent increase for Poughkeepsie? Once again, the Poughkeepsie Journal has followed a fairly consistent pattern of obscuring the main story about property taxes, and instead has parroted the congratulatory PR of government officials.

Government Officials Are Just Doing Their Job

It is not my intent at all to bash City of Poughkeepsie Mayor John Tkazyik or his budget. I take no position on whether his budget is good, bad, or indifferent. But Tkazyik is doing what any good politician needs to do: Put the best face on a bad situation. And don't kid yourself, the situation is bad, not just in the City of Poughkeepsie, but throughout Dutchess County, New York State, and indeed the nation. When government officials discuss property tax issues in today's economic climate, it is to their advantage to deemphasize — or even omit — the tax rate and the change in the tax rate.

Poughkeepsie Journal Fails its Readers — Again

In my view, it is the Poughkeepsie Journal that has been serving its readers poorly by not presenting the real story — the increase in the tax rate. This has been a consistent pattern with the Poughkeepsie Journal. This story on the City of Poughkeepsie is just the latest example.

1 comment:

  1. A follow-up story on page 1 of the Mid-Hudson section of today's Poughkeepsie Journal by reporter Michael Valkys once again fails to mention the proposed 5 to 7 percent tax rate increase. The story's subheading continues to mislead readers, "Tkazyik's proposal calls for spending cuts and doesn't increase taxes". Another disservice to Journal readers.


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