Friday, November 19, 2010

Town of Hyde Park to Increase Property Tax Rate 16.9 Percent

At a special meeting to begin within the hour, the Hyde Park Town Board is expected to approve its 2011 budget, and to announce that this budget will result in roughly the same tax rate (0.4 percent decrease) compared with last year.  If you are asking why the title of this post refers to a 16.9 percent tax rate increase, then you haven't been reading this blog recently.  My post of November 11 explains that the Town of Hyde Park has not understood how to properly calculate property tax rate increases.  The Town has incorrectly assumed that it can simply compare the tax rates in dollars per thousand dollars of assessed value from year to year.  However, this procedure is invalid for jurisdictions like Hyde Park with equalization rates that change every year.  By not properly computing the tax rate increase percent, the government of the Town of Hyde Park, and the citizens who are evaluating its budget, are flying blind.  Since posting on November 11, I've learned that the same flawed 2011 budget process was also present in the 2010 and 2009 budget processes.  I have not determined whether this fundamental flaw was present in Hyde Park budgets prior to the 2009 tax year.

Staffing Changes

I've also since learned that the Hyde Park Town Board has enacted some significant staffing changes during the last half year:  Twenty-three year veteran bookkeeper Joanne Lown was fired in June 2010 in what some claimed was an unceremonious procedure.  The Board simultaneously abolished her position, replacing it with a new comptroller position.  Ann Boehm was then hired as a temporary, part-time comptroller until her full-time replacement by Darlene Deary on September 15.

Why is Hyde Park's 2011 Tax Rate Increase so High?

Hyde Park's equalization rate for 2011 property taxes is 54 percent, up 17.4 percent from 46 percent for the 2010 taxes.  This major increase in equalization rate swamps the small (0.8 percent) increase in assessed value, causing Hyde Park's taxable market value to decrease 14.1 percent.  The large drop in market value means that even if the 2011 tax levy were unchanged from 2010, Hyde Park would see a double-digit increase in tax rate.  However, the tax levy for 2011 is expected to increase a small amount (0.4 percent) to $4,490,122.  Doing the math results in a 16.9 percent tax rate increase.

Response of Town Officials

My repeated attempts to contact Town of Hyde Park officials were not fruitful until Monday, November 15.  By that time, officials apparently figured it was too late to do anything about the tax rate calculation error for this budget cycle.  News stories this week about Hyde Park in the Poughkeepsie Journal continue to report wildly inaccurate tax rate increase information, as they have done since last month.  In my view, Hyde Park Town Supervisor Tom Martino owes it to the public to accurately and faithfully report the correct tax rate increase percent for the 2011 budget — not the wildly inaccurate tax rate increases being claimed.  Taxpayers will eventually be able to determine the true tax rate increase when they get their tax bills.


In order to correct this unfortunate problem in future years, no action is needed by the Town Board.  The problem can be corrected administratively by whoever is responsible for preparing the budget details, presumably Deary.  Once she makes this correction, citizens — and the government itself — will be able to see what the true financial situation is.

100 Percent Equalization

In addition, however, the Town Board might be wise to consider modernizing the assessment process by moving to 100 percent equalization, as all but 8 jurisdictions in Dutchess County have already done. Once this is accomplished, the misunderstandings of recent years will not be possible.  And the move to 100 percent equalization has considerable additional benefits as well, without incurring any cost or penalty.


  1. I attended the Hyde Park Town Board meeting this evening and briefly stated my case for accurate tax rate increase information. Town Assistant Supervisor Michael Taylor responded with an elaborate rebuttal, the essence of which is that I am wrong, the Town has been doing everything right, and it will continue to do so. Taylor's arguments may convince some, but I am not persuaded. Watch this space for further developments. I don't think this case is as closed as it may superficially appear.

  2. To me it is just a shell game. No Ones wants those who will be paying to know the real story until the bill comes in January. Until then it is to their advantage to mislead everyone and/or plead ignorance and then hope those taken advantage of forget before the following election. Some have better memories than others and they aren't all necessarily elephants.

  3. @DutchessPreserver: I agree that government officials may intentionally mislead. But the official assertion that the tax rate increase is less than 1 percent isn't misleading -- it's just wrong! Since it's easy to show that it's wrong, officials are probably not deliberately lying, they're just mistaken.

    My examination of Hyde Park's budgets for the last three years indicates that officials have misunderstood the true financial situation of the Town. The idea that the Town is blind to its financial picture should be more than a little disturbing.

  4. Interesting Article - Rockefeller Institute of Government

    Most Interesting is the final paragraph.
    Fairview Fire District adjusted to fiscal realities, when will everybody else.

  5. The Poughkeepsie Journal waited until today to publish the week-old news about the Nov. 19 Hyde Park Town Board meeting:

    There's nothing new in the Journal's story that I haven't already addressed in this post.

  6. Hyde Park’s final 2011 tax rate is $4.83562 per thousand dollars of assessed value. Comparing this rate with the 2010 rate listed on Dutchess County’s Real Property Tax Service Agency website, after properly accounting for the change in equalization rate, yields a final 2011 tax rate increase for Hyde Park of 18.2 percent. Town officials, not accounting for the equalization rate change, will incorrectly claim the increase to be only 0.7 percent.

  7. I guess I shouldn't have said "final" in my last comment. It seems that small adjustments to tax rates can occur until the last minute for a variety of reasons.

    According to the tax rate pamphlet issued by the Dutchess County Real Property Tax Service Agency in late January, Hyde Park's final 2011 tax rate is $4.85844 per thousand dollars of assessed value. Comparing this rate with the 2010 rate, after properly accounting for the change in equalization rate, yields a final 2011 tax rate increase for Hyde Park of 18.8 percent. This nearly 19 percent increase is a far cry from the less-than-one-percent increase claimed by town officials.


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