One key aspect of CRREO’s mission is to bring key regional concerns to the attention of citizens and policymakers to support their informed discussion of the public policy problems facing the Hudson Valley. Quality information will help us to work together to develop our own, local solutions and advance the need for changes at the state level.
» Discussion Brief 13:
Property taxes are a central concern for state and local government in New York. Much attention has been given to the burden they impose, far less to the fairness with which they are levied and administered. The Center for Research, Regional Engagement and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz takes up one aspect of this question of fairness in its 13th discussion brief, "Classification of Property Taxation in New York State: Issues and Options."
The creation of four classes of properties in New York City and Nassau County, and the taxation properties within each class at different rates, was an approach adopted by the state legislature over a third of a century ago to avoid potential major increases in homeowners' tax burdens that might have resulted from a state high court decision.
In a 2014 CRREO report prepared for the City of Kingston, "The Impact of Kingston's Homestead Tax System on Kingston's Economic Development," authors Gerald Benjamin and Tom Cetrino found that:
- Higher property taxes paid by non-homestead property owners are hard to displace onto renters, are capitalized in a property's value, and have a negative impact on that value.
- Under the homestead/non-homestead system as non-homestead property values go down their property tax burden increases, while as homestead property values increase their property tax burden decreases. This widens the gap between the relative effective tax rates of the two property classes.
- While there is no statistical evidence that higher commercial property taxes under the homestead property tax system have a significant influence on business location decisions, the homestead tax system has a "perceptual as well as real effect" on those decisions.
It is clear that localities that adopted the homestead/non-homestead system have experienced two sets of unanticipated, undesired effects of this choice:
- unpredictable, uncapped shifts in the tax burden between homestead and non-homestead properties; and
- an effective irreversibility in policy because of the potential effect of change on school districts and the resulting "tax shock" for city, town or village homeowners.
» Discussion Brief 12:
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz has released its 12th discussion brief, "Public Education in Ulster County: Finding the Right Scale."
The discussion brief notes that in times of fiscal stress, policymakers look to find efficiencies in public spending with public education often an area of focus. To that end, school district consolidation is often promoted as a mechanism for achieving fiscal economies, and is frequently cited as a solution to overspending in schools.
Author Robin Jacobowitz, Ph.D., interim associate director of CRREO, reports that despite the public attention given to school district consolidation, it may no longer be a viable, blanket solution to achieving economies of scale in public education. In the brief, Jacobowitz suggests a conversation of "scaling-up" be considered as an alternative to determine the best way to achieve the desired scale without sacrificing quality or community.
"As we seek new organizational, administrative, and pedagogical models for assuring New York's children the very best education we can offer in an environment of ever greater social and economic diversity and constrained resources, this paper reminds us that we must avoid getting trapped into mere stylized reconsideration of conventional approaches," said Gerald Benjamin, CRREO director and associate vice president for regional engagement. "It also shows us how to think anew, in creative ways, of what might be truly innovative, efficient and effective regional solutions for the challenging years ahead."
» Discussion Brief 11:
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) today released the eleventh in a series of Discussion Briefs on regional issues: Poughkeepsie Plenty: A Community Food Assessment. The series seeks to inform citizens and decision makers on key issues, problems and opportunities facing our region.
Authored by Leonard Nevarez, Professor of Urban Studies at Vassar College, Susan Grove, Coordinator of Poughkeepsie Plenty Food Coalition, and KT Tobin and Joshua Simons of CRREO, the brief reports the findings of a two-year study of food access and security in the City of Poughkeepsie. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food security as access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Conversely, a "limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways" defines food insecurity. Poughkeepsie Plenty: A Community Food Assessment finds that food insecurity is a troubling problem in the City of Poughkeepsie.
Funded by a USDA Food and Nutrition Service Hunger-Free Communities Assessment and Planning Grant, the members of the teams guiding the Poughkeepsie Plenty research included the Poughkeepsie Farm Project, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Dutchess County, the Dutchess County Department of Health, Dutchess Outreach, Vassar College, and many other agencies, individuals, and local businesses. The initial goals of the Poughkeepsie Plenty initiative were: to create a research-based community food assessment (CFA); to draw upon community participation and input to create a plan (for improving the city's food system) using neighborhood and citywide action planning forums; and, to establish a community food coalition to facilitate and oversee the implementation of the action plan through coordinating projects, and monitoring and advocating for policy.
» Discussion Brief 10:
The report is a case study of how the national economic crisis in 2008 produced local opportunity for a collaborative group of municipalities in Westchester County, N.Y.
From a founding membership of 12 municipalities in April 2009, the original group of collaborating towns and villages has grown into the Northern Westchester Energy Action Consortium (NWEAC), a not-for profit enrolling 18 municipalities with a combined population of more than 274,000 residents. Thanks to its achievements over the last four years, NWEAC is now recognized in Westchester County and beyond as an innovative leader in energy policy and practice, and more generally in sustainability issues.
As families in the Hudson Valley shop and prepare to gather for the traditional Thanksgiving Dinner, SUNY New Paltz Professor Sue Books reports in a newly released CRREO discussion brief that a significant number of county residents are living in poverty, suffering economic hardship, or experiencing "food insecurity."
Books, a professor in the Department of Secondary Education at SUNY New Paltz concludes, "We are living side-by-side in two worlds. Some of us shop for food regularly and conveniently in a range of venues, from full-service groceries to local farm stands. Others must obtain food wherever and however they can in a shadow system of food pantries, soup kitchens, and food distributions."
NEW PALTZ – The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz has released its eighth discussion brief, "Federal Mandates on Local Education: Costs and Consequences – Yes, it's a Race, But is it in the Right Direction?"
The author, Kenneth Mitchell, district superintendent of South Orangetown School District in Rockland County and executive committee member of the Lower Hudson Council of School Superintendents, reports that "There are serious challenges to (the Race to the Top) federal program's validity, and the research upon which it is based. Without substantive validation, New York State and U.S. taxpayers are funding a grand and costly experiment that has the potential to take public education in the wrong direction at a time when we need to be more competitive than ever before."
Gerald Benjamin, CRREO director and associate vice president for regional engagement, stated, "Education is our most important locally delivered service. As New York bends every effort to improve the results we achieve with and for our children in the classroom, this locally rooted, interesting and provocative essay promises to add an important dimension to the regional and statewide policy discourse."
» Discussion Brief #7:
NEW PALTZ -The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz this week released its seventh Discussion Brief, Water Conservation and Long-term Water Supply Planning in the Hudson Valley: A Rockland County Case Study.
Authors Stuart Braman (Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory) and Simon Gruber (CUNY Institute for Sustainable Cities) begin with the apparent paradox that though the Hudson Valley has an abundance of water Rockland County faces a water shortage. This circumstance is the result of land use decisions taken over many decades in the face of massive growth pressures. Responding to the shortage now, they argue, requires managing the complex interaction of four factors: home rule, fragmented state regulation, no access to a key regional resource (the New York City water supply system), and reliance on a private water supplier, United Water of New York.
The authors conclude, "The inability of a private actor to compel public behavior to conserve water, the powerful commitment in New York to home rule in land use decision making, and the highly diffuse and decentralized nature of local governmental authority make it very difficult to develop systematic, comprehensive approaches to regional water policy. In addition, profit-making private companies, responsible to stock holders, are likely to be less considerate of citizen priorities in policy choices. Just as this case demonstrates the need for an integrated state approach, it shows the importance of finding means to induce collective local action to assure the well-being of local communities and ecosystems."
Gerald Benjamin, CRREO Director and Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement, stated, "Water issues, and the need for regional water policy planning is becoming a primary focus of interest for CRREO. This essay provides essential insight into the crucial importance of giving timely systematic attention to water needs as growth occurs in the Hudson Valley, and the need to efficiently find proper balance between conservation efforts and supply management in a far too complex, fragmented decision environment. The broader implications of this work take on additional significance at a time that much of the nation is facing very challenging drought conditions."
CRREO was established in 2007 to further engage the university and its people with communities, governments, not-for-profits, and businesses across our region. CRREO conducts and publicizes research on regional topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific topics of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits, and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.
» Discussion Brief #6
A joint project of CRREO and The Solar Energy Consortium, the report surveyed the state of the solar industry in the nation and New York State. Among its findings: although solar manufacturers in the region have made some gains, they require tax incentives now more than ever to help level the playing field with overseas competitors.
» Discussion Brief #5
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) has released its fifth Discussion Brief: Agriculture Supporting Communities in the Mid-Hudson Region. The CRREO Discussion Brief series focuses on regional issues, in order to inform citizens and decision makers of key public policy choices and issues in our region.
This latest release, authored by Brian Obach and Kathleen (KT) Tobin, finds that, “There has been some encouraging news lately for those who wish to preserve the rural character of the Hudson Valley. The growing vitality of small farms and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is helping farming to reclaim its central place in the economic and social lives of our region’s communities.”
The study details century-long trends in the number and size of farms. Nationwide, and in our region, while the overall number of farms has decreased dramatically, the proportion of both large and small farms has grown, and mid-sized enterprises have been squeezed out. Over the past twenty years, the number of small farms has increased in our region.
Because many of the small farms in our region are CSAs, our abundance of them led CRREO’s Regional Well-Being Project to test some ideas about the civic effects of this development. The study, which includes surveys of CSAs members and residents from throughout the region about connectedness to community and civic engagement, finds that CSA members have high rates of volunteerism and political participation in their communities.
Gerald Benjamin, CRREO Director and Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement, observes, "This latest aspect of our Regional Well-Being Project promises to help restore our understanding of the Hudson Valley’s agricultural heritage as central to our regional identity and further establish the importance of farming as a current and future driver in our economy. I am delighted with the quality and potential impact of this latest CRREO product."
Obach notes, “We have long known that agriculture in our region is under threat from development pressure and that if it is to be preserved, it needs support from local communities. But what we have learned is that local agriculture helps communities in untold ways. Local sustainable agriculture can not only preserve the rural character of our region, but it can actually strengthen communities, enhance regional identity and increase civic engagement.”
Tobin adds, “Political scientists and sociologists have documented a steady decline in civic and political participation. There are few other environments that foster the type of interaction that is common at CSAs. The evidence presented here suggests that CSAs can serve as incubators for civic engagement and community building.”
The authors encourage that “The revitalization of agriculture in our region needs to be nurtured,” and “efforts should be supported through individual and organizational action and public policy.”
The principal authors of this report are Brian Obach (Sociology) and KT Tobin (CRREO). In addition to Regional Well-Being/US Department of Education funds, Obach and Tobin were awarded United University Professional (UUP) grants and Obach utilized a grant from the National Science Foundation (#0550550) to complete this work.There was considerable student contribution to this project:
- Survey Development/Field Interviewers: Chris Utzig (Philosophy, ‘09), Carolyn Burgess (Sociology, ‘09), & Jenna Dern (Sociology, ‘09)
- Survey Data Entry and Management: Layla Al Qaisi (Political Science, ‘10) & Maria Davila (Political Science, ‘10)
- Secondary Data Research: Emily Sobel (Political Science, ‘11)
- Cartography: Ryan Reutershan (Geography, ’12)
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz is uniquely situated to advance agreement among environmentalists, advocates of development and key government decision makers on economic, social and environmental issues.
» Discussion Brief #4
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) today released the fourth in a series of Discussion Briefs on regional issues: Hudson Valley Water: Opportunities and Challenges. This series seeks to inform citizens and decision makers on key issues, problems and opportunities facing our region.
This latest paper, authored by Scott Cuppett and Russell Urban-Mead, finds that our abundance of water is one of our region’s most important current and future resources. It argues that there is an urgent need in the Hudson Valley for regional water resource planning and protection in the Hudson Valley to assure the region’s future. The authors encourage watershed planning initiatives that integrate best preservation practices with water resource uses, while encouraging economic growth. They recommend approaches and strategies that capitalize on our ecosystem’s ability to provide clean and abundant water through better land use decisions.
Gerald Benjamin, CRREO Director and Associate Vice President for Regional Engagement, notes, "Our abundance of water in the Hudson Valley provides one of our greatest regional opportunities, and one of our biggest challenges. This Discussion Brief effectively discusses both, and shows how the proper protection and use of our water can help assure a vital regional economy and continued excellence of our quality of life."
Urban-Mead says, “With failing aquifers in China, droughts in Russia and legal water battles across our own southern and western states, we should be optimizing water advantages right here at home. We have lots of rain, a river that brings us water from a 12,000 square mile watershed, and climate models that predict only more rainfall in the future.”
Cuppett adds, "Besides our children, water is our Hudson Valley's greatest future asset. We must change the way we manage our land and water for the sake of our children. Our current and future well-being depends on clean and abundant water. We must protect this asset."
The paper recommends such strategies as:
- Take a holistic watershed approach to water management
- Protection of forests, floodplains, and wetlands
- Promote groundwater recharge to assure that groundwater is replenished
- Replace failing waste water treatment facilities
- Balance competing human and wildlife water needs
- Develop responses for occasional droughts
- Minimize cumulative impacts from land use change on water quality and quantity
- Identify “water ready” sites
The Center for Research, Regional Education and Outreach (CRREO) at SUNY New Paltz is uniquely situated to advance agreement among environmentalists, advocates of development and key government decision makers on economic, social and environmental issues. The Center was established in 2007 to further engage the university and its people with communities, governments, not-for-profits and businesses across our region. CRREO conducts and publicizes research on regional topics; creates and directs select institutes focusing on specific topics of regional interest; connects and partners with local governments, not-for-profits and businesses to initiate reforms and advocate for best practices; contracts to assess the performance of public and not-for-profit agencies and programs; and works to foster intergovernmental collaboration and community engagement.
- Mid Hudson News, Oct. 7 2010, CRREO “discussion brief” identifies “urgent” need for regional water resource planning
- Daily Freeman, Oct. 7, 2010, Water called valley's greatest natural resource
» Discussion Brief #3
The study, authored by Kathryn Reed, MHA, CMPE, who is the Executive Director of the Catskill-Hudson Area Health Education Center located in Highland, NY, finds that the Hudson Valley needs far greater success in bringing doctors to o region.
“If we don’t pay attention to physician recruitment and retention now,” Reed asserts in the brief, “there will be a price to pay in the availability and quality of medical care in our region in the years to come.”
- Times Herald Record, March 10, 2010: Region not attracting doctors
» Discussion Brief #2
This paper is a preliminary look at taking a regional approach to county jailing. It suggests that at a time when there is still significant pressure to expand upon and build new jails, there is already enough jail capacity in the eight Hudson Valley counties considered in the study to meet current and future regional needs.
- readMedia Newswire, April 29, 2009: NY Secretary of State Announces Grants to Reduce Costs and Improve Local Government Services
- Poughkeepsie Journal, Feb. 15, 2009: Dutchess has every reason to join jail study
- The River Reporter, Jan. 15, 2009: Regional jail system eyed
- Times Herald Record, Dec. 31, 2008: Regional jails could reduce counties' costs; Shared space holds promise
» Discussion Brief #1
This is the first of several discussion papers on the property tax and other issues that we believe will help citizens and policymakers make informed decisions.
- Times Herald-Record, Oct. 29, 2008: Report shows why Ulster County taxes are higher for residents of cities and villages
- Ellenville Journal, Oct. 23, 2008: CRREO Reports: Ellenville Highest Taxes in Ulster County
- Mid-Hudson News Network, Oct. 16, 2008: Property tax inequities exist in Ulster County, according to new research center
- Daily Freeman, Oct. 26, 2008: Study sheds light on property tax inequity in Ulster County*