Fair Tax Assessment

When our city leaders claim there is a budget deficit what they really are saying is that we do not have enough money. Yet this situation is a creation of a tax and assessment system which gives large projects huge benefits which home owners do not enjoy. Most of these projects get special tax rates from the city either through COMIDA or Payment in Lieu of Tax arrangements (PILOT). Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg for these projects as they are also under assessed.

The chart below lists 19 such projects in Rochester. These projects have been assessed at $43.7302 million, but those we have full details on were built for $361.8 million. If assessed at construction costs these would generate $15.9 million in revenue compared to the $1.9 million the City collected with the present assessments. Many of these developers pay even less! Even if we accept the special tax agreements, the low assessment of these properties will keep their taxes low even after these deals expire. Thus, there are hundreds of projects which the owners are paying taxes on only a portion of the property value. If Rochester only taxed and assessed all properties fairly there would be roughly $90 million more without having to raise the tax rate at all.

Project Address Cost To Build City Contribution Assessed Value
250 South Ave 250 South Ave $2.1 mil $450,000 $400,000
Alexander Park 330 Monroe Ave $83 mil ??? $7.445 mil
Westfalls Heights 454 Westfall Rd $11 mil PILOT $4.1 mil
Fernwood Village 65 Waring Rd $9.4 mil PILOT $3.975 mil
North Plymouth Terrace 116 W. Main St. $5.5 mil ??? $67,200
Ramona Park 5, 10, 20 Ramona Pk $18.574 mil PILOT $3.58 mil
Parazin Building 206-208 Mill St $1.5 mil $530,000 $1.08 mil
Rite Aid 565 Monroe Ave ??? ??? $1.525 mil
Culver Road Armory 145 Culver Road $14.4 mil PILOT $2.1 mil
Voters Block Community 556-560 W. Main St $20.3 mil $1.4 mil + PILOT $15,000
Frederick Douglass Apts 442-466 W. Main St $7 mil $1.7 mil + PILOT $44,000
Depaul on W. Main 720 W. Main St $35 mil PILOT $225,000
Corn Hill Landing 300 Exchange St $22 mil $19.2 mil $7.65 mil
Trolley Barn 61 Commercial St $5.6 mil $1.05 mil $1.2 mil
Parry Building 222-230 Mill St $2.18 mil $710,000 $925,000
Kirstein Building 234-250 Andrews $4.1 mil $1 mil $1.85 mil
ESL Building 255 Chestnut St $50 mil $384k + PILOT $624,000
Bridge Square Building 242 W. Main St $6.746 mil ??? $325,000
Brooks Landing Hotel 1000 Genesee St $13 mil $3.1 mil $6.6 mil

(All figures are from the City of Rochester's Website)

Now the argument for most of these properties to get tax breaks is that they create jobs. Yet, most of these properties with special tax considerations are either commercial buildings or low income housing. These projects do not create permanent jobs. The project owners are developers who then rent the spaces and apartments. Companies that rent the commercial spaces may create permanent jobs but they do not pay a lower rent. So the owners just end up with higher profits.

Recently the State of New York limited tax assessment growth in an area to 2%. This would prevent us from fairly taxing these properties but there is a loophole. If 2/3rd of City Council were to vote to remove this cap then it can be lifted. Thus the City could fix the inequities of the tax system and raise the needed revenue for us to run our city.

We should:
  • Reassess all the large projects in the City at a rate that is closer to construction costs. If projects in the city would only be assessed at half their construction value, this would raise over $40 million.
  • Stop using PILOT programs on projects that only create buildings rather than permanent jobs.
If these two things were done we would have a surplus not a deficit. This would solve the need for constant budget cuts as it would stabilize our finances. Then we could be deciding whether we want more firefighters or a new library as opposed to cutting either.

Other ways to save $33.6 million:
  • Defer part of the Ramona Street project to next year to save $1.75 million
  • Put sidewalk replacement in line with other years to save $700,000
  • Put 2 police officers in half the police cars on the streets to save $800,000
  • Defer Erie Harbor Enhancements to save $800,000
  • Defer new convention center equipment to save $200,000
  • Halt land acquisition for a year to save $1 million
  • Do not do the Transient Marina Facilities Phase 1 Project to save $7.3 million
  • Delay green garbage can (called toters) replacement to save $1.2 million
  • Use request for proposals procedures on all purchases to save $6.9 million
  • Defer half of midtown redevelopment to save $1.95 million
  • Remove blue light security cameras (that creates more shootings) to save $1 million
  • Reduce street milling to half of the present rate to save $2 million
  • Make management to worker ratio in city 1:10 to save at least $8 million

Listen to Alex...

...on Transforming Rochester on Rochester Free Radio. You can see when it's on at the Rochester Free Radio show schedule.

Search This Site