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Mondaire Jones addresses the audience during a Black Live Matter rally outside Irvington Town Hall on Oct. 11, 2020.

Freshman U.S. Congressman Mondaire Jones, who won the seat vacated by longtime Rep. Nita Lowey, has made good on one of his campaign promises: to work for repeal of the $10,000 cap on SALT (state and local tax) deductions. 

Jones, who represents New York’s 17th Congressional District, is co-sponsoring the SALT Deductibility Act in the House with Tom Suozzi of Long Island, also a Democrat; Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) is sponsoring it in the Senate. The bill was introduced in both chambers on Jan. 28. 

“As a result of Donald Trump’s cap on the SALT deduction in 2017, nearly half of all households here in Westchester and Rockland saw their tax bills go up,” Jones wrote to the Enterprise in a Feb. 8 email, referring to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. “Hundreds of thousands of people in our district had to pay thousands of dollars more in taxes each year. That’s money they couldn’t spend on housing, food, transportation, child care, and health care. By passing the SALT Deductibility Act, we’ll put money back into the pockets of working people all throughout our district.”

Jones’ district, which encompasses Rockland County and parts of central and northern Westchester, including Irvington and Dobbs Ferry, has the highest property taxes in the U.S.

“Help is on the way,” Jones pledged at a press conference also attended by local, county, and state politicians, the day after the bill was introduced. Westchester County Executive George Latimer thanked the bill’s sponsors, saying it would address “the single biggest issue that we face in local government and as taxpayers in the area.”

According to data supplied by Schumer’s office, the average SALT deduction taken by Westchester residents in 2017, before the cap took effect, was $36,263. That year, 232,500 households in Westchester claimed SALT deductions. 

The capping of the SALT deduction beginning in Tax Year 2018 affected 87 percent of Greenburgh homeowners, according to Town Assessor Edye McCarthy. For some taxpayers, the reduction in the allowable SALT deduction was offset by other provisions of the 2017 tax law, which nearly doubled the standard deduction for homeowners who didn’t itemize. But in localities such as the Rivertowns, SALT taxes outstripped even the new, higher standard deduction. The loss of much of the deduction was like the second hit in a one-two punch to taxpayers’ pocketbooks in taxing districts such as Irvington, where the townwide reassessment in 2016 drove Irvington’s aggregate property valuation up by 18 percent, reflecting the fact that many properties had not been reassessed in decades.

The biggest portion of homeowners’ local tax bill in the Rivertowns is school taxes. The Westchester County school district tax rate database for 2020/2021 lists the tax rates in each district per $1,000 of assessed value of a home (known as the “mill rate”). Homeowners in the Ardsley School District had a school tax mill rate of 22.2102; Hastings, 21.3771; Dobbs Ferry, 22.1895, and Irvington, 20.0985. 

Village taxes are also part of SALT, and are calculated according to village residency rather than school district residency. Mill rates for village taxes in the Rivertowns this year are 9.94 for Ardsley, 6.03 for Hastings, 6.92 for Dobbs Ferry, and 7.81 for Irvington. 

But although Irvington’s mill rates aren’t the highest in the Rivertowns, their house prices are. Zillow, the real estate listing site, graphs the values of “typical” houses in specific communities over time. Even accounting for the fact that Zillow’s measurements knock out the lowest and highest price tiers in a market, the typical Irvington house was worth $998,495 on Dec. 31, 2020, while Zillow’s typical prices as of that date for other Rivertowns were $758,173 in Dobbs Ferry, $800,471 in Hastings, and $737,000 in Ardsley. 

Did the SALT deduction cap have a chilling effect on house values? It’s hard to tell, especially since 2020 figures could also reflect pandemic-related market changes. But in December 2017, Zillow’s typical house value for Irvington was $1.02 million, $21,000 more than in December 2020. The other Rivertowns’ values were higher in 2020 than they were in December 2017. Dobbs Ferry’s typical house was up by $13,000, Hastings’ was up by $2,400, and Ardsley’s was up by $11,000. 

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