We are not better off after four years
Monday, October 1, 2012 - 5:02 pm

To the Editor:

Are we better off locally or nationally than we were in 2008? My wife and I have been residents of the town of Parishville since our retirement from NY State service nearly 20 years ago. We own our own home and pay taxes (town in January and school in September).

We are both in the 80-year age bracket and collect Social Security and NYS retirement. Have things improved for us since 2008, either on the local or national level? We say “no,” but you be the judge.

To the credit of the NYS retirement system, each year, from the end of Sept. 2009 through the end of Sept. 2012 a cost of living adjustment (COLA) (averaging 1.25% per year) has been granted to retired NYS employees.

However, between Jan. 2009 to date in 2012 Social Security payments have only been increased by a COLA twice (2009 and 2012) for an average of 2.35% per year. Guess what? Both Social Security COLAs were timed to be announced in a year that a presidential election was to be held, which just goes to show that the senior votes sure mean a lot to our national politicos.

On the local level, regarding our home, there was a substantial increase in our assessed value in 2012, although we made no changes to the property and the assessed value remained unchanged for 13 years. As a result of the recent increase in assessment, our January property tax, which in 2009 was $1,289.36, is estimated to be $2,144.30 in 2013. That estimate was reached by using the January 2012 tax rate. We don’t even want to think what it will be if the county legislators vote to over ride the 2% real property tax cap required by a recent NYS law.

Also, for the record, in the years before 2012, since we were unaware of the fact that we were entitled to the Enhanced Star exemption, we had the advantage of only the regular Star exemption. In 2011 our school tax was $837.09 with that exemption. This year we used the Enhanced Star exemption and our school taxes were $1,234.60. Believe it or not!

Why do local legislators in Albany refused to allow St. Lawrence County to raise the sales tax and spread the burden to all residents, and take some of the burden off property owners?

Now to the price of gasoline. Why don’t you hear more from our locally elected officials regarding the sky rocketing gasoline prices in our area? In 2008 the price of gasoline nationally averaged about $2.35 per gallon. Of course it is always higher here in St. Lawrence County and NYS. Today the national average is around $3.90 per gallon and rising. In order to just shop for groceries (the cost of which has increased substantially since 2008) it is necessary for us to drive 20 miles round trip. Many others must travel farther in the largest county (area wise) in NYS. Could it be that our local elected officials know that, if they spoke in an attempt to stop the upward spiral of gasoline prices, it would reduce the sales tax income to the municipal entities that they represent?

We all know that many of the towns, the counties, and the state (although Gov. Cuomo does not agree) are broken or badly bent, and that the USA is in debt to the tune of $16 plus trillion dollars (and counting).

Steps must be taken to turn things around both locally and nationally. From a personal perspective, we are of the opinion that no local or national politician (aware of the facts) should say “we are better off now than we were four years ago.” Based on our four year experience and yours, do you agree?

J. Neil and Ellen S. Devine