Thursday, October 8, 2009

Town of Red Hook Gets It Almost Right

After my previous posts about how the Arlington School District, the Town of Poughkeepsie, and the Town of LaGrange have tried to mislead the public about the true extent of property tax increases, it's a pleasure to report that the Town of Red Hook has made a serious attempt to tell it like it is. This is especially commendable since the news is very bad: In a press release dated September 30, 2009, Red Hook Town Supervisor Sue Crane announced a 25 percent property tax increase in the Town's proposed 2010 budget.

Unfortunately, the press release does not specifically say exactly what “25 percent property tax increase” really means. Does it mean a 25 percent increase in the tax rate? In the tax levy? In the typical tax bill? There's no way to know from reading the press release. If you've been reading my recent blog posts on this subject, it really makes a difference. The tax rate is all that matters. What's needed is the percent increase in the tax rate. With all the deception commonly practiced by other jurisdictions, as reported in this blog, one can't assume that “25 percent property tax increase” necessarily means “25 percent property tax rate increase”.

But I'm happy to report that it does mean exactly that. Town of Red Hook Deputy Supervisor Jim Ross confirmed this fact in a recent phone conversation. Ross and I agreed that it would have been more informative for the press release to have explicitly mentioned that the 25 percent increase is in the tax rate. The omission of this information is the only issue I found with the tax increase announcement, and is the reason for my “almost right” qualification.

Poughkeepsie Journal Echos Officials — Again

A story by reporter Rasheed Oluwa appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal's October 5 edition under the headline “Red Hook weighs 25% tax hike”. Unfortunately, this story is nothing more than a paraphrase of the Town of Red Hook's press release. The same ambiguity about the meaning of “25 percent” that appears in the press release is simply repeated in the Poughkeepsie Journal's story. It would have better served readers if the reporter had investigated sufficiently to clarify this important matter. Regrettably, this is not the first time that a Poughkeepsie Journal story has comprised nothing more than a parroting of government officials.

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