NISKAYUNA — If you want to live in Niskayuna, be prepared to pay.
Niskayauna homeowners have the highest tax bills in the Capital Region, according to a report released Thursday that compares the tax bills on median-value homes.
In Niskayuna, the total bill — which includes school, county and town taxes — comes to $8,290 annually, according to the report by the Empire Center for Public Policy.
The comparison is based on median home values, which means the midpoint price of all homes sold on the market in a given town or city. For Niskayuna, that equates to $247,400.
The report, titled Benchmarking New York, was based on the state comptroller’s data of taxes levied during the 2014 fiscal year. The Empire Center for Public Policy is a fiscally conservative think tank.
Within the Capital Region, only a few other towns or cities came close to Niskayuna’s tax bill. Bethlehem’s taxes on a median home were reported at $8,248, Altamont’s were reported at $7,818 and Albany’s were reported at $7,782.
L.J. Goldstock, Niskayuna resident and owner of LT’s Grill, said the tax bill is crippling to local business owners.
“I’m entrenched here. You would think that local government would want to support local businesses,” Goldstock said. “We’re putting so much money into the town as it is by hiring local employees. . . . But I’m just trying to stay afloat now and that’s basically where I’m at.”
As a longtime Niskayuna resident, Goldstock also commented on the local housing market. “It’s so pricey here now. . . . I’ve never seen so many houses for sale. I always tell people, it’s like you have two mortgages. One for your house and one for your taxes,” said Goldstock.
But John DiGesualdo, a real estate broker for Niskayuna and Schenectady County, said that he has never had a problem selling a home in the town.
“People don’t mind paying more to live in a suburban area,” said DiGesualdo. Many of his clients don’t want to live next to a large shopping center or area of big business. They are looking for a community.
Over the years, the market value has increased within the town, according to DiGesualdo. Even during times of national economic hardship, DiGesualdo said, there are usually multiple bidders for a home on the market in town.
“Most people already know about the taxes when they look into Niskayuna. It’s the smaller school district that draws them in. . . . They could live in Clifton Park where taxes are lower but then their kids would go to Shenendehowa, and their graduating class is huge,” DiGesualdo said.
DiGesualdo recalled one client who chose to live in Niskayuna rather than the Saratoga Springs area simply because of the Niskayuna school district.
“As soon as he [the client] went online and saw the rankings of the school district, he changed his mind and asked for a house within the Niskayuna school district,” said DiGesualdo.
In 2014, the district was ranked 26 on Newsweek’s “America’s Top High Schools” list. The district has also been awarded two National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence and four New York State Rewards Schools since 2007.
“We are proud of the quality of education here,” said Matt Leon, the school district’s public information officer.
Leon also said the Empire Center report relied on older data and that in each of the last two years the tax levy increases have been less than half a percent.
Town Supervisor Joe Landry said he could not verify the data used in the report because it was based on combined taxes.
“The people of Niskayuna have been getting upset in recent years over this. Within the past two years, they have voted down a fire department bond referendum and the school budget,” said Jim Buhrmaster, the minority leader of the Schenectady County Legislature.
He also commented on the lack of Republicans on the Niskayuna town board and said that there needed to be more of a balance.
“There is no accountability in the government and it’s got to change,” said Buhrmaster.
To view the full report, visit www.empirecenter.org.