Real estate slump sparks blame game


Saturday, June 27
HOOSICK , N.Y. — Rensselaer County Realtors are blaming a 38 percent drop in residential sales from Jan. 31 to May 31 on high property taxes. Legislators, meanwhile, are blaming one another for the property taxes themselves.

James Ader, of the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, said Friday that members are telling him the reason it is hard to sell homes in Rensselaer County as opposed to other Capital Region counties is because of high property taxes.

"There may well be other factors," Ader said, but nothing that can be quantified.

The Democratic Minority Office released a statement Wednesday citing statistics released by the Realtors association that show 117 closed residential sales in May 2008 but only 53 such sales in May 2009, a 55 percent drop. Ader said he was surprised that figure was used, because it is such a small sampling compared to the yearly drop in sales of 38 percent.

"We're very concerned that high property taxes in our county are having a disastrous impact on real estate," said Legislator Peter Grimm, D-Troy. "My constituents in the City of Troy, who were hit with a 13 percent increase in property taxes this year, consider relocating due to the unmanageable tax burden."

Democratic legislators charged Republicans with increasing taxes, although Republicans said taxes have not gone up. "We are proud that despite huge increases in state mandates that the county approved a 2009 budget that did not raise property taxes," said Richard Christ, spokesman for the Legislative Majority Office on Thursday.

Democrats argued that no increase in property taxes did not equal no increases in taxes. They cited increases to the tax levy as the cause for taxpayer woes.

According to the Office of Real Property Services (ORPS), the tax rate is determined by the tax levy. The tax levy is formed when the taxing jurisdiction, such as the school district, town, county, or village, develops a budget. Revenue from sources other than property taxes, such as state or federal aid, are then subtracted from the budget. The remainder becomes the tax levy, which is met through property taxes.

"The tax levy in the 2009 adopted Rensselaer County budget is up almost $3 million from 2008 levels," said Legislator Kevin Harrington, D-East Greenbush. "That's a tax increase, and there have been increases every year since 2002 that add up to more than a 100 percent increase overall."

"These comments show just how out of touch Democrats are," said Crist. "There is no question the outrageous tax increases and spending hikes approved by state Democrats have impacted the state economy. It is unbelievable that Democrats would raise taxes and hike spending when so many state families are dealing with the effects of a disastrous recession."

According to the Greater Capital Association of Realtors, the overall yearly closed sales of residential properties in Saratoga County were down 29 percent. In Schenectady County they were down 22 percent, and in Albany County they were down 15 percent.

The association provides services and legislative representation for Realtors in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, and Montgomery counties.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at


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