Comptroller: Local Counties Have A Lot Of Tax-Exempt Properties

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Tug Hill State Forest in Lewis County is great for outdoor enthusiasts, but it's also nearly 12,000 acres off the tax rolls.

A new list from the state comptroller ranks St. Lawrence and Lewis counties third and fourth in the state when it comes to tax exempt properties.  

Is that a problem?

You bet.

"Every time there's an exemption granted, somebody has to make up the difference. Ultimately it's the leftover property owners," said Mike Tabolt, Lewis County Legislature chairman. 

Lewis County also has tax-exempt wind turbines, but the owners make payments in lieu of taxes. 

St. Lawrence County has tax-exempt universities and hospitals.

It also has the city of Ogdensburg, where 64 percent of the property value is tax-exempt - second highest among all cities in the state. 

Again, state-owned facilities are a big reason why.

"The psych center and the prison both take up a large portion of the property to the east end of the city so they definitely contribute to that," said Ogdensburg City Manager John Pinkerton.

Ogdensburg is trying to increase the value of property that isn't tax exempt, like its waterfront.

"As we clean it up, we want to get it in the hands of developers because that's probably the most valuable property we have here in the city," said Pinkerton.

That could help reverse a ratio that no city wants.

Thursday, July 31, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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