Why are property taxes so much higher in Westchester County NY than in Fairfield County CT?
October 27, 2012 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Why are property taxes in Westchester County, NY so much higher than in Fairfield County, CT?

Representative examples:

A house listed in Bronxville, NY for $539,000 (1874 sq ft, 3 bd, 1.5 bath, built 1929) has property taxes of $16,072 per year.

A house sold in Greenwich, CT for $565,000 (2010 sq ft, 3 bd, 3 bath, built 1930) has property taxes of $5430 per year.

Side question: some homes for sale in Westchester County list that their taxes are in the process of being "grieved". Typically, how much lower can they be shifted if successfully grieved?
posted by xo to Law & Government (10 answers total)
Generally, you can blame the schools for the total property tax bill - In most places, they range from at least 50%, to upwards of 90%. Does Westchester have a high population of school-age kids compared to Greenwich? Also, the number of commercial taxpayers makes a huge difference in what residential payers end up forking over. Does Greenwich have a thriving business community compared to Westchester?

For your second question - You'll usually fail at it ("Can't fight City Hall"), and if you succeed, you'll save a few hundred bucks a year at best.
posted by pla at 3:47 PM on October 27, 2012

This article might interest you: Why Are Our Taxes So #%*! High?
posted by Sassyfras at 3:50 PM on October 27, 2012

It also depends on the size of the property and the ratio of residential property to commercial property in your taxing district.
posted by gjc at 4:42 PM on October 27, 2012

Have worked as a reporter in both Westchester and Fairfield Counties, and property taxes are a big part of the job. Here's my understanding:

First, the property taxes in Westchester are a combination of municipal and county taxes. The county tax rate is high in part because of the parks system (if you ask a Republican), and in part because the state hands a percentage of its Medicare/Medicaid tax burdens down to the counties. A good person to ask about this would be Marty Rogowsky, a county legislator who has been talking for years about the tax burden passed down to the county government by the state government. The last time I was working in Westchester, an estimated 70 percent or more of the county budget was set in stone by the state -- meaning that the county legislature's only option for reducing the property tax burden was to lay off employees. Regardless of how much the county cut costs each year, the tax rates went up.

Second, property taxes in Bronxville are especially high because of the small but very robust school system, and because Bronxville is a village within the town of Eastchester, meaning that Bronxville residents are paying into a bigger coffer for everyone in the villages of Eastchester, Tuckahoe and Bronxville. Some of that may change if the village splits off from the town of Eastchester and forms its own coterminus town/village, which would reduce property taxes for Bronxville residents. The current mayor has proposed such a plan, but it can take years to achieve.

Further, and perhaps most importantly, some but not all parts of Westchester County have participated in property revaluation, a process that is meant to lower tax burdens for some by bringing all property values current. Unfortunately, not all municipalities have participated, and the state has not required a statewide revaluation in many (think 30+) years.

In Fairfield County, revaluation is done routinely every five years. It used to be every ten, but was changed in 2005. Here is a good FAQ that explains how property taxes work in the town of Greenwich.
posted by brina at 4:43 PM on October 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Two more things:

1. It's also important to remember that the state of Connecticut levies property taxes on vehicles, whereas New York does not.

2. There are/were a few large corporations based in Greenwich, like Nestle. Bronxville lacks a similar source of corporate property taxes, and in fact many municipalities in Westchester County have given large tax breaks to corporations in exchange for having malls or entertainment centers built in dilapidated downtowns.
posted by brina at 4:52 PM on October 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

How do other taxes compare? State income tax, sales tax, any other taxes? We live in an area with little sales tax income, so our property tax is quite high compared to some surrounding areas, for example. Texas has no state income tax so sales tax is a huge source of income.
posted by RustyBrooks at 5:13 PM on October 27, 2012

There are/were a few large corporations based in Greenwich, like Nestle. Bronxville lacks a similar source of corporate property taxes, and in fact many municipalities in Westchester County have given large tax breaks to corporations in exchange for having malls or entertainment centers built in dilapidated downtowns.

That seems to counter Stamford, which has a higher property tax rate than Greenwich, and Stamford has a rather large number of corporate HQs. When we sold our house in the Springdale neighborhood in 2004, our property taxes were sitting at around 9k a year.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:16 PM on October 27, 2012

I'll leave theories to experts, but I think it's worth pointing out that Connecticut does not have government at the county level. (As an aside, four years ago Connecticut's now-governor regarded this as a weakness.)
posted by gnomeloaf at 5:32 PM on October 27, 2012

Tell me about it. We left Westchester because of the propery taxes. We had four different entities to which we paid property taxes: village, town, country, school. That means four different staffed offices were collecting taxes--a ridiculous system. I don't believe similar big-city suburbs in other areas have all those layers of tax collection. I don't begrudge taxes per se, especially school taxes and voted for those taxes for decades. But we couldn't stomach the bureaucratic layers of tax collection. None of the nearby towns wanted to share resources either--recycling, trash collection, libraries. They were little fiefdoms, yet everyone bellyached about why taxes were so high. It was an outrageous setup that we miss not one iota.
posted by Elsie at 6:16 PM on October 27, 2012

I grieved my taxes in Westchester and got about a 17% reduction in taxes my first year, but the problem is if everyone seeks a reduction in property valuation which is what you are doing when you grieve, then your dollar amount will stay same or go up anyway because the taxing authorities still want the same money or more and it is spread out over all the properties pro rata.

Approximately 2/3rds of your taxes in Westchester are school taxes. I do not know about Fairfield, but my guess about the difference is the way education is funded. NY, in wealthy districts like those in Westchester (ex-Yonkers), the state pays between 5% and 10% of the budget. The rest is paid locally. CT could fund more.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:10 PM on October 27, 2012

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