UPDATED October 23, 2019, 1 p.m.
Two City Council members are thinking ahead about New York’s troubled property tax system. Eleven years ahead, to be exact.
Last week, Helen Rosenthal and Ben Kallos introduced a bill mandating evaluation of the system in 2030. The idea is to prevent it from becoming warped over time, as has occurred since the last major change was made four decades ago.
The law would create a commission appointed by the mayor and speaker to analyze the system in terms of “equity, efficiency, transparency, ease of administration, and compliance.” It would be required to hold two public hearings and issue a report with an analysis and recommendations by November 2030. The process would repeat every 15 years.
Rosenthal said it dovetails with a bill she introduced in January 2018 that would require the Department of Finance to publish its property assessment methodology and the results of every assessment.
The commission could not alter the system, and the council itself has limited power over property taxes. Only the state Legislature could truly overhaul it. But the panel could call attention to inequities in the system and create impetus to change it, as an ongoing lawsuit is attempting to do.
Lawyers for the city and state argued in court last week to have the lawsuit against them dismissed.
The suit, filed in state court by the industry-backed group Tax Equity Now New York in 2017, alleges the property tax system violates state and federal laws and constitutions by disproportionately taxing low-income and minority homeowners and renters.
Tax Equity, a coalition of real estate and social-welfare groups, say the lawsuit is an attempt to force lawmakers to address the inequities. One reason they have not is that few want to raise anyone’s taxes, which would be inevitable in an overhaul.
Both levels of government admit there are problems with the city’s real estate system, but maintain that politicians, not the court, should address them. In 2018, the city set up an advisory commission to recommend reforms.
Rosenthal, who supports Tax Equity’s suit, said she would wait for the results of its work before “aggressively pushing” her legislation. The most recent bill has been referred to the Committee on Finance.
This story was updated with comments from Rosenthal.
Write to Erin Hudson at [email protected]