You can fool some of the people….

No one likes paying taxes but resentment fanned by misleading newspaper articles makes it even more unpleasant. A front page article in the Press & Sun-Bulletin on Sunday, November 14, trumpeting that Binghamton has the highest property tax rate in the state seriously misrepresents the facts. The author’s comparison of Binghamton with Ithaca was particularly deceptive. The truth is that the cost of providing city services like police, fire, and public works is largely independent of housing values. Thus a city has to set a tax rate that will yield a certain level of revenue; when property values are low, tax rates have to be higher. The city of Binghamton has roughly twice the area of Ithaca meaning that the cost of services here will be higher: more streets to maintain and patrol, for example. According to the Census Bureau, the median value of an owner-occupied house in Ithaca is $193,700; in Binghamton it is $85,100. Using the tax rate numbers in the article the median homeowner in Ithaca would pay $2,533 a year in property tax while a comparable person in Binghamton would pay $2,137. Yet the median household income in Binghamton is nearly 8% higher than it is in Ithaca. When Neil Borowski took over as editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin he wrote an editorial urging people to stop being so negative about the area. So why is he not insisting that his reporters tell the whole truth?


1 Response to “You can fool some of the people….”

  1. 1 Leo Cotnoir December 14, 2014 at 15:06

    You bring up a good point about the home ownership rate. It is 45.9% in Binghamton but only 26.9% in Ithaca. There are 10,442 single-family houses in Binghamton vs. 3,295 in Ithaca. I have no data on how many are owner-occupied. Interestingly, the housing density in Ithaca is higher as well, 2.78 per housing unit against 1.94 per housing unit in Binghamton. Of course, what ultimately makes the comparisons virtually meaningless is that the “real” city of Binghamton, i.e. the urbanized part of Broome County, has a population nearly five times that of Ithaca. Still, my point stands that the article was misleading.

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