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Calculating County Tax Rates 

There are four factors that influence the amount of county property taxes that a property owner in Onondaga County will pay:  (1) equalization rates, (2) local property assessments, (3) total county tax levy, and (4) sales tax credits.

1.  Equalization Rates
The equalization rate “equalizes” taxes on equal value properties in different assessing districts to offset differences in assessing practices.  The equalization rate is established by the State Board of Real Property Services. The Equalization Rate is determined by the following formula:

  Assessed Value
Equalization Rate = —————————
  Full Value

As a result of different assessing practices, each assessing district (the 19 towns and the city) has a different relationship of assessed value to full value.  Some towns are assessing properties at 100% of full value (often referred to as market value) , while others are assessing properties at a lesser percentage of full value.  Equalization rates can change from year to year depending on changes in market values and assessment practices of a municipality.  In order to fairly apportion the county tax levy across different assessing districts, the equalization rate is used to annually determine the full value of each municipality.  

Each municipality’s share of the county levy is apportioned based on their full value in relation to the full value of the county.  As assessments and equalization rates change each year, so does a municipality’s full value and proportionate share of the tax levy.

The importance of the full value calculation, when the full value of property has either increased or decreased at a greater rate than property in other assessing districts, is that it determines whether property owners will pay a greater or lesser share of the county tax levy. 

2.  Local Assessments
The second major variable affecting the amount of County taxes you will pay is the local assessment.  In Onondaga County, the assessing districts for county taxes are the towns and City of Syracuse.  The county itself does no assessing.  The Assessors in the towns and City of Syracuse determine the full value (market value) of each property and place the assessed value of each property on the assessment roll. 

For the purpose of apportioning the County tax levy, the amount of all exemptions is first subtracted from the total assessed value.  Per statute and County resolution, the value of certain partial exemptions is added to the taxable value to drive the taxable assessed value.   It is the taxable assessed value that is the basis for the full value determination that dictates what percentage of the county tax levy will be paid by each of the towns and the city.          


Formula A: Taxable Assessed Value
Local Full Value = ————————————
 Local Equalization Rate


Formula B: Local Full Value
% of County Full Value = ————————————
Total County Full Value

3.  Total County Tax Levy
The third major variable in determining the impact of the county taxes is the amount of the county tax levy.  This is the only variable that is controlled directly by the County Legislature.   Once the budget is adopted by the County Legislature, the amount to be raised by the property tax is fixed for that fiscal year. 

The amount of the county tax levy will somewhat determine the tax impact; however, it has happened where tax levy reductions at the county level have not translated into tax decreases for the property owners because of changes in assessments and equalization rates.  The converse has also occurred.

4.  Sales Tax Credits
A municipality’s county tax rate is determined by dividing its share of the county tax levy by the taxable value in the municipality.  This would be the actual tax rates to be paid by property owners within each town if it were not for local sales tax distribution.   The city, towns and villages have the option of taking their share of the county sales tax revenue either as cash or as a credit against the county tax rate.  The difference in the way each municipality has elected to receive its sales tax revenue creates major variations in the actual county tax rates that appear on the tax bills in January.    

The sales tax credits are stated in dollars per $1,000 of assessed value.   Subtracting the credits from the effective county tax rate, results in the actual county tax rate for each town and the city. 

 
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