If you’re looking for leadership in town government, you don’t have to go any further than the Town of Gates.
At its January 6th meeting, the Gates Town Board discussed a new proposed local law – Considering Local Law 1-2014, A New Local Law to provide a Partial Tax Break for Homeowners Renovating their Home.
The Town Board will take public comment on the proposal tonight during their regular Town Board meeting at 7:30 PM at the Town Hall 1605 Buffalo Road – Gates, New York 14624.
Under the current rules in Gates, and many other places, including Sweden and Brockport, if you renovate your home your property is reassessed and your property taxes go up the next year.
On paper the old way of doing things seems okay. But in reality increasing property taxes immediately because of property improvements is self-defeating. People choose not to do home improvements because they don’t want to pay higher taxes.
It’s a vicious cycle, especially for people on fixed incomes.
And in college towns like Brockport, it’s even worse because some college landlords convert single family homes into college rentals and then deliberately let the exterior of the house deteriorate to keep their taxes low.
So families wind up subsidizing landlords, when they maintain their property and the landlords don’t.
If you want to see the perfect example, go to the corner of Maxon and Utica Streets in Brockport and look up Maxon Street at the houses.
The house on the corner at 176 Utica Street is an absolute disgrace, and the landlord refuses to fix it up even though the neighbors have asked him to do so. He claims that it costs too much, despite his rental income.
Then look further up Maxon Street at the third house on the south side of the street. It’s the big green house at 15 Maxon Street that Mr. Zimmer used to live in. Now it’s a college rental in desperate need of a paint job.
But the landlord isn’t going to paint the house, even though it is not up to code, because his taxes will go up.
He’ll spend money to widen the driveway to make more parking spaces, but he won’t spend a dime to paint the house.
Strict code enforcement would help. Under former Code Enforcement Officer Scott Z, code enforcement in Brockport was a joke. Property owners never got ticketed for rundown houses that violated the village code.
New Mayor Margay Blackman is working on that.
But strict code enforcement is a form of negative reinforcement. Do this or else. Tax incentives, on the other hand, are a form of positive reinforcement, do this for me and I’ll do this for you.
The Town of Gates is adopting the classic carrot and stick approach.
Code enforcement is the stick. If you don’t comply, you’ll be fined. Tax abatements are the carrot. If you fix up your house, you’ll pay lower taxes for five years.
It’s a tactic with a proven track record. Reward people who do what needs to be done and everybody wins.
But some people get it and some people don’t. The five members of the Gates Town Board – Mark W. Assini, Frank X. Allkofer, Christopher B. DiPonzio, Richard A. Warner, and Lee Cordero – are all Republicans. They get it.
The five members of the Sweden Town Board – Robert A. Carges, Rebecca Donohue, Robert Muesebeck, Donald Roberts, and Danielle Windus-Cook– are also all Republicans.
But the members of the Sweden Town Board don’t get it and they’re dragging their feet about approving the tax abatement for the Clinton Street Redevelopment Project.
According to the Town of Sweden’s 2013 budget posted on the town’s website, Sweden issued COMIDA tax exemptions worth $13,812,300 to three properties.
That’s 13 million, eight hundred twelve thousand, three hundred dollars of tax exemptions to three businesses in the Town of Sweden. But they balk at granting a tax exemption to redevelop the historic properties along the Erie Canal.
It seems the members of the Gates Town Board have their head screwed on right, while the members of the Sweden Town Council have their heads screwed on backwards,
Maybe that’s why the Gates Town Supervisor, Mark W. Assini, has garnered such support after he announced that he intends to run for Congress against Rep. Louise Slaughter.
Good leaders lead from the front. Poor leaders hesitate and delay hoping that the whole thing will go away.