Americans are value hunters. We will change shopping venues to save five cents. In particular, we want value in the homes we own. It is a way to build equity over the long pull.
Today, in southern Chautauqua County, the cheapest place to buy a home is in the City of Jamestown. It is a buyer's market. A friend recently sold a beautiful home in one of the city's nicest neighborhoods for $130,000. It was a four bedroom, 2 bath house and was in immaculate condition. It had been on the city assessment roles at $165,000. The buyer got a good deal. Had this home been in Lakewood or one of the townships in the area, it would have probably sold for $300,000.
Why did the buyer get such a good deal? At least one reason is the city's tax rate. For 2013, it stands at $21.62 per thousand of assessed valuation. You can pay less for a home in the city but, over time, you will pay a lot more in taxes. It is an issue of "pay me now or pay me later." (All local governments also add the county levy to their tax bills. The tax levy stated here is just for the purposes of running the City of Jamestown.)
So what is the competition charging for real property taxes? Below is a list of the tax rate per $1000 for some local options homeowners had in 2013:
Town of Ellicott $4.26
Town of Busti .96 cents
Town of North Harmony $2.61
Town of Ellery $2.44
Village of Lakewood $7.30
Village of Falconer $8.67
These lower tax rates are probably one of the reasons that people will pay more for a house in these communities than they will in Jamestown. Another advantage of living in one of these other "options" is that the value of your home will probably rise. In Jamestown, it could likely decline. The fact is that this year, if you lived in West Ellicott, you paid $4.26 per thousand of assessed value to support your town government; whereas, a Jamestown citizen spent $21.62 per thousand to support city government.
Maybe the citizens in Jamestown are getting three or four times the services that these other municipalities are offering and the pricing disparity is worth it. Yet, knowing how committed Americans are to value shopping, it wouldn't surprise me if maybe a few Jamestown residents have moved into one of these "optional" taxing jurisdictions.
A Chautauqua County resident interested in analyzing public policy from a long-term perspective writes these views under the name Hall Elliot.