Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pawling School District Tax History

This first of two posts on the Pawling School District presents the recent history of the District's property taxes. A subsequent post will describe the 2014 tax apportionment mistake committed by the Pawling School District, in violation of New York State Real Property Tax Law, which caused property tax bills to overstate or understate the amount of tax due, depending upon the town in which the property lies.

The following table summarizes the Pawling School District's recent tax history. Most of the data for this table was derived from the tax rate pamphlets provided by Dutchess County's Real Property Tax Service Agency. However, data for the portion of the Pawling School District in the Town of Patterson (Putnam County) is not available from this source. Pawling School District Assistant Superintendent for Finance Neysa Sensenig graciously provided me with the Patterson assessed value and tax levy data needed to complete this table.

Pawling School District
Year of
Tax Bill
Taxable Market Value Tax LevyTax Rate
Market ValuePercent
Tax LevyPercent
Tax Rate
per $K of
2004$1,217,637,391$19,689,971 $16.17

Taxable Market Value

It is helpful to visualize the Pawling School District's taxable market value (column 2 of the above table) as a chart. The chart below shows clearly the increase in property values through 2008, followed by the economic meltdown which has decreased property values every year since then. The Pawling School District's experience follows that of Dutchess County as a whole (see first chart in my recent post Dutchess County Gov't Tax Rate Keeps Climbing), and indeed that of most of New York State, and even most of the country. Note that the Pawling School District's taxable market value for the 2014 tax is only slightly (2.6%) greater than that for 2004.

This same data can be visualized in terms of the yearly increase in taxable market value (column 3 of the above table):

It should be noted that all these market values lag tax bills by a year and three months. For example, for tax bills to be paid on October 2, 2014, the corresponding market values are as of July 1, 2013.

Tax Levy

The Pawling School District's tax levy — the total amount billed to property taxpayers (column 4 in the above table) — can be visualized as follows:

Although the Pawling School District's tax base (taxable market value) increased only 2.6 percent in the last decade, the above chart shows the tax levy increasing 51.3 percent in the same time period. The tax levy has increased every year, except for a 1.4 percent decrease from 2012 to 2013, as shown in the following chart (column 5 of the above table):

Tax Rate

As I have written many times before in this space, tax rate, that is, true value tax rate expressed in dollars per thousand dollars of market value, is a useful way of comparing taxes among jurisdictions, among years, and even among different kinds of property taxes. For a given year, tax rate (column 6 of the above table) is simply tax levy divided by taxable market value. The following chart depicts Pawling School District tax rate for each of the last 11 years: 

True value tax rate measures how steeply your personal wealth, as measured by the taxable market value of your property, is being taxed. The above chart shows that your wealth has been taxed more steeply every year since 2007 — just before the economic meltdown. Tax rates for the years 2000 through 2003 (not displayed in this post) are mostly higher than for 2004, but never higher than $17.41. This means that in 2010, your wealth was taxed at a steeper rate than ever before in this millennium. Since then, the tax rate has increased every year. The following chart (column 7 of the above table) shows the tax rate changes in more detail:

All tax rates in this post describe both how steeply the Pawling School District taxes its tax base and how steeply property owners are taxed (after accounting for STAR and other similar exemptions). That's because the Pawling School District utilizes neither the homestead tax option nor the apportionment option (for explanation of these options, see my 2014 School District Tax Rate Rankings).

Well, actually, this isn't quite true for 2014. The 2014 tax rate only describes how  steeply the Pawling School District taxes its tax base. It does not describe how steeply property owners were taxed in 2014. That's because in 2014, the Pawling School District made a mistake in apportioning the tax levy, which caused property tax bills to overstate or understate the amount of tax due, depending upon the town in which the property lies. This mistake, which violates New York State Real Property Tax Law, will be described in detail in a forthcoming post.

Careful readers will notice a slight discrepancy between the Pawling School District's aggregate tax rate of $23.86 reported here and the $23.82 rate reported last month in my 2014 School District Tax Rate Rankings). That's because last month's tax rates did not take into account the Town of Patterson segment of the Pawling School District. Ordinarily, the Town of Patterson's taxes should make no difference in the tax rate. It's only because of Pawling's 2014 apportionment error that the difference appears. This post's aggregate tax rate of $23.86 is correct. Similarly, this post's 2014 tax rate increase of 5.3 percent is correct, not the 5.1 percent reported last month. These small corrections do not affect last month's school district rankings.

The author is grateful to Pawling School District Assistant Superintendent for Finance Neysa Sensenig for her kindnesses in accommodating my requests for data and other information.

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