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Real estate record and builders' guide: v. 21, no. 523: March 23, 1878

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Real Estate Record AND BUILDERS' GUIDE. Vol. XXI. NEW YOIIK, SATUEDAY, MAIICH 2H, 1878. No. 528. Publislied Weekly by CIjc liciil (Estate Sftarb i^ssoctatbu. TERMS. OWE I'EAn, in advance....SIO.OO. Coinmunications should he addressed to C. \V. S^VEET, Nos. 315 ANO :M7 Broadwav. The Recoki is printed and sent to the Post Office in time to be delivered in every part of New York City and Brooklyn by the earner's lli-st early delivery. Any subscriber who does not receive from the letter enrrier his paper by the earliest delivery- will please report the fact imniediatelv. STATE TAXATION. There have been many jiiid great discu.ssions during the past five years concerning State taxatirjn, tho merits of which we will venture to stij- are'entirelj- unluiown to tho general reader be¬ yond the allegation that in the apportionment of State taxation the city is being defrauded by tho country. Tho bases of this allegation are neither easily accessible nor readilj- comprehensible. We purpose, however, to,present to our readers a connected and intelligible account of the contro- vei-sy. Great reputations have been founded in an abilitj' to handle this question, and e.xcellent men have talked themselves hoarse in dilating iilion its intricacies. It is to bo feared that one of our Tax Commi.ssioners has actuallj- impaired his health in blowing a fog-horn upon this recondite subject. A proper analysis and discussion of this theme are comparable only to the study of liuinan anatomy, so articulated and ramified are its is.sues. The pillars of the main questions in di.spute rest upon the foundation «f assessed and .ipportioned values, and of their ratios, upon com¬ parisons of population and acreage, and tlieir productiveness, all duly formulated in dreary and hcwildering columns of numerals, which are supposed to furnish tho ammunition for a deadlv aim at the very heart of the controvei-sy. In the fii-st place we will present to our reatlers II table showing the aggregate of the State tax levy for I.S77, and tho manner of its apportion¬ ment between the city and the countrj-.- STATE T.,VX LEVY. • t, . -.. Taxed Amount ^ „ , , -Rate. A ahiation.s. of tax For Schools.... i;^ mills ?2.755,740,31R S,3,1(10 r.^ 85 lor general pur- „ P^,f«......---111-21'- ----- 4,018,787 92 For the new Cnpi- tol and other buildings...... H " ----- fias.93,';08 ^or canals......^ '• ----- fli8;580 16 '"'"'^al..........9F0 58,726.511 01 Apportioned as follows: New York County................ *j irr-) 883 8=> Fifty-nine other counties.........'.'.'.'.'.'.'. ^4'.5G:V.6-27 le '^'^t*'.................■•.................$8,72^511 01 The i-eal subjects of controversy are whether this levy of taxation is now inequitably appor¬ tioned among the various counties of the State, and if so. whether there is any -way of effecting an equitable apportionment. To a correct understanding of the premises, it is necessary to hear in mind that the entire State is divided into minute sub-districts called w-ards or t«wns. for the purpose of Jocal tax assess¬ ment. For all purposes of town or local taxation, the sub-a,sse.s.sors within these districts are supreme, and their valuations and the rate of taxation growhig out of them are conclusive and binding upon tho residents of such sub-districts. These sub-districts are aggregated into counties as the next highest division, and upon such ag¬ gregated valuations the county taxes aro levied. Fiuallj- there aro three State Assessoi-s having jurisdiction of tho assessed valuations of the sep¬ arate counties of the State for the purpose of levy¬ ing State taxation. In lS.")9,in order to secure a fair and just apportionment of taxation, a special of fice w-as created, to wit: the Board of State Equal- iziition and Apportionment, consisting of the three assessors already named and, besides, seven of the highest oiliciids of tho State. This board has the power to make arbitrary changes in the lists of county valuations that are presented to them by the State Assessoi-s, and their final determination and distribution of gross valuations establishes tho basis of distribntion of the State tax levy for any given year. The town of w-)iieh we are citizens happening to be co-equal, and co-extensive with the county, its valuations are determined -and adjusted for local pui-poses bj- a Board of Tax Commissioners who are aided in their duties by a corps of about a dozen deputy assessoi-s. In the other counties of the State, excepting Kings, and perliaps some of the counties in which are situated the leading provincial cities, the assessment di.stricts taper off to such small limits as to embrace as a mininum not more than two or three hundred tax paj-ei-s. In these small communities the circnm- staiicea of each tax payer are likely to be w-ell understood by the others, and hence there is opportunity of concealing subjects of taxation than in larger towns and cities. Some idea how¬ ever may be formed of the crude, bungling and inexplicable results that characterize, and we may say vitiate and taint the a.ssesscd valuations throughout tho State by a scrutiny of the follow¬ ing table taken from the last rojiort of the Comp¬ troller of the State, which we prefer to incorpor¬ ate in his own language as t'ne most appropriate in which the story can bo told. " Notwithstanding the universal shrinkage in values, the asse-ssed valuation of real estate by local as-sessors is constantly increasing. In 1.S.V1 it was returned at................§1,015.76-3.791 In 187-1 it was returned at................1.750.6aS.918 In 1876 it was returned at.................2,:i7fi,'i52,l78 " It required twenty years of combined pros¬ perity and inflation to increase tho valuation of our real estate §71)0,0(10,000, wliilst only three years of unmixed disaster and bankruptcy- in¬ creases the valuations upwai-ds of 6(J00,01M),(K)0. Tho figures would seem to demonstrate that advei-sity is more conducive to wealth than is prosperity." The whole gravamen of tho charge in respect to unequal State taxation lies just here: it is claimed that the practice prevails with the coun¬ try assessors almost as an invariable rule of asses¬ sing as a taxable valuation one-third only of tho market value of property; whereas, the Tax Commissioners of New York assert that their as- se-ssments represent at least sixtj- if not eighty- five per cent of total value. In performing their duties tho State a-ssessors choose to place their own con.struction u[K)n these various estimates of value; and pos.sibly it may be interesting to our readers, as it will certainly furnish them with some idea of the perplexity of the problem pre¬ sented to theso State a.s,«essors, if we refer to a table w-hich has already been published showing the ratios used by local a.sses.sors, and the ratios adopted by State as-sessore for the same counties. Ratio of assess- Ratio of assess¬ ed value to ed value to total value used total value used by Local bj- State Assess. ITS. Assessors, Cayuga............. .%.5 ri.4 Chautauqua........ ai 5 8.").:i Delaware......... S-I tii.4 Dutchess........... ;i7 43 Erie------......... 32 34.4 Franklin........... 43.5 69 Fult-m.............. 35 40 Genesee............ 39 53 1 Jefferson........... 3:1 45.5 Lewis............ 33 87.2 Livingston.......... .'{t5 ftS 9 Monroe............. .'12.5 3,8 3 Niagara ........... :f3 5fi.8 Orleans ............ .37 75 5 Queens............. ,32 :i(> 2 Richuiond....... 22 56.6 Schoharie......... 31 fi5.9 Schuyler........... at5 74.5 Seneca.............. 40 45 8 Steuben............ 40.5 82.2 Tompkins........... .30 74 Wyomiiig.......... 38.5 .57.4 Yates............... 40 m r, It is claimed that the State assessors, in exer¬ cise of the plenarj' powers conferred upon them, arbitrarily and despotically choose to consider the valuations established bj' country assessors to be one-half instead of one-third total valuation; whereas, the claim of the city Tax Commissioners, that they have valued taxable property in this city at sixty per cent, of its value, is entirely repudia¬ ted by the State assessors, who claim that such valuations do not represent more than fifty per cent of such total valuations. That is they level up the city valuations and level down the coimtrv valuations. Tho State Board of equalization and apportion¬ ment, acting upon the representations of the State Assessors are guilty of further acts of autocratic and arbitrary power, in apportioning the-so var¬ ious valuations. It will probably be seen that the country valuations, instead of being placed at three times the sums assessed by the local as¬ sessors, are thereby placed at onlj- twice these amounts, whereas, the citj- valuations, though claimed to be in the neighborhood of seventj--five per cent of actual values, are treated as if they were one-half said values, and in this wise, there is a large reduction upon the country valuations, equal to one-third of the total established and sworn to by the local assessors, and a correspond¬ ingly heavj- addition made to the valuation for this citj-, the amounts asses.sed bj- our own commissioners being doubled in order to obtain the full valuation, whereas, it is alleged, the re¬ sult thus obtained amounts to from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty per cent of our entire taxable propertjr. This, we may say, is the gist of the quarrel that has been so persistently and actively waged be¬ fore the State Board of Equalization. The im¬ plements of this warfare are principally tables of numerals, and its strategy consists in fulfilling the adage that,'."figures will prove anjrthing." Re