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Sullivan County’s property taxes - How bad are they?

December 23, 2013

New York State’s property taxes are among the highest of any state, and Sullivan County’s property taxes are among the highest of any county in New York State. Measured simply in dollars and cents, New York’s homeowner property taxes are the fourth highest of all 50 states. The median property tax paid by the typical New Yorker for “owner-occupied housing” in 2009 was $3,755, almost twice the national average.

But there are other ways to look at property tax burdens than only gross dollar figures. One way is to compare the taxes to the values of the homes.

(Watch, in each of the following examples, how the percentage of tax in the right-hand column grows, depending on which figures are used.)

New York State
Median Home Value: $306,000
Median Property Tax: $3,755
Tax as % of home value: 1.2%

Measured this way, New York’s property taxes are only 17% higher than the national rate.

But, perhaps the fairest way to compare the level of taxes is by measuring the incomes of the homeowners. This method, sometimes called the “property tax effort,” looks at the ability of homeowners to afford their property taxes.

State Median Income: $74,777
Median Property Tax: $3,755
Tax as a % of income: 5.0%

Property taxes, however, are not levied by states. They’re levied by local governments, villages, towns, counties and cities. Looking at property taxes among the more than 3,100 counties in the United States, we find great variations not just between states, but within individual states. Here, for instance, are the median property taxes for five New York State counties. (These are annual average figures from 2007-2009 provided by the Tax Foundation. Its study compared the property taxes paid in the 1,823 U.S. counties with populations over 20,000.)

NYS County Median Prop Tax. Median HH Income Tax % ofincome
St. Lawrence $1,536 $51,293 2.98%
Erie $2,885 $62,219 4.64%
Sullivan $3,342 $59,336 5.63%
Orange $5,314 $87,471 6.08%
Westchester $8,474 $110,615 7.66%

But the Tax Foundation figure of $59,336 cited above seems too high. If we plug the U.S. Census figure instead, $48,303, we see an even greater “tax effort” or “tax burden” for Sullivan County taxpayers.

County Median Prop Tax Median HH Income Tax % of income
Sullivan $3,342 $48,303 6.9%