Niki Kelly has an article about some disgruntlement among legislators about how the Department of Local Government Finance is applying the homestead rules. The amusing part is that the DLGF is apparently applying the homestead rules exactly as they always have — and that has some legislators upset.
Tax rates are set differently for homesteads. The DLGF has apparently defined a homestead as being one house, one garage (attached or detached) and up to an acre of land. These are subject to the most favorable taxing rates and capped at 1% of the property’s value by recent legislative action. But, where there are more structures (pools, gazebos, barns, additional garages) or more land that fall outside the definition of “homestead,” the DLGF continues its practice of taxing them under other regimes — agricultural or business (which have higher caps of 2% & 3% respectively under the recent legislative action.)
Technically, one parcel of land could have three property tax caps applied.
For example, a homeowner with a house and a pool on five acres could have the house and one acre capped at 1 percent; the remaining land capped at 2 percent if it is farmed; and the pool capped at 3 percent.
And this, apparently, has been the way the law has been applied for years.
Jeff Espich’s reaction amuses me.
But Rep. Jeff Espich, R-Uniondale, said he is tiring of the Department of Local Government Finance taking hard-line stances rather than considering legislative intent.
He said the financial effect might not be much per homeowner – a few hundred dollars at the most.
The department “acted casually and without regard to our intent,” Espich said. “It’s terrible.”
He said he hopes to work with the administration to find a non-legislative solution because it’s impossible to write the law to account for every contingency.
In other words, “ignore the law we wrote, and do what we meant. We’re far too busy to get bogged down in details.” When I was working for the legislature, I came across any number of legislators — and by way of disclosure, none of them was Rep. Espich in particular — who just couldn’t or wouldn’t slow down enough to have the details explained to them. And, not so incidentally, this highlights why it would have been a bad idea to incorporate this legislation into the Constitution. With unintended consequences still being discovered, it’s not a good idea to enshrine the language permanently into the Constitution.