Study Reveals Shocking Cost of Living in the Hudson Valley

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New affordability crisis report shows wide range of Hudson Valley residents struggling 
With Hudson Valley residents continuing to buckle under the weight of one of the highest costs of living in the nation, Reclaim New York (Reclaim) this week released a new study that gives area residents the most sobering look yet at the region’s impact on the financial future of every resident.

Reclaim’s Hudson Valley Affordability Crisis report shows that across virtually all income levels, residents in Westchester, Rockland, Putnam, Orange and Dutchess Counties are struggling to save for the future and achieve financial stability. The report, for the first time in the region, details the cost of government for residents down to the zip-code level.

“The cost of government is driving up the cost of living for Lower Hudson Valley residents causing a widespread savings crisis,” said Reclaim New York Executive Director Brandon Muir. “The average family has no chance when even families earning more than twice the median income can’t afford to save for college, retirement, or care for an elderly parent. We have a crisis that deserves the attention of every resident and public official.”

Muir added, “The affordability crisis impacts everything we do from deciding when to start a family, to growing a business, to buying a home. This new study helps people understand the problem in greater detail than ever before, empowering them to demand more efficient, more affordable government.”

For the first time, Reclaim calculates the real “Wake-Up Cost” for residents in the Lower Hudson Valley by combining income, property, sales and excise taxes with basic living expenses. Knowing exactly what it costs you just to wake-up makes you a more informed citizen. Reclaim’s model analyzes multiple income levels and data from a wide range of primary sources to give people a more complete picture of where their money is going.

“From the nickel-and-diming of the MTA tax, to property taxes that are more than four times the national average, people living in the Hudson Valley are barely above water after paying for the basics,” Muir stated. “Millennials are getting crushed, families don’t have reserves, personal debt is increasing, and seniors face an uncertain future.”

New Yorkers pay nearly 200 different taxes levied by more than 3000 government entities, including the second highest state income tax, the second highest gasoline tax, and some of the highest property taxes in the nation – making everything more expensive in the Empire State.

New York’s Medicaid costs are far beyond any other state per capita and New York also boasts the most mandates on the insurance industry, driving up costs and limiting options for those who do not need the mandated items. New York’s economic development policy has largely consisted of government bureaucrats picking winners and losers, often based on who is owed favors or who knows who, Muir noted. The fact New York constantly needs to offer massive tax breaks to attract new companies to the state is a pretty good indication taxes are too high in the first place, he added.
Other examples of New York overtaxation include the state tripling of the cost to renew driver’s licenses and vehicle registrations and the state’s refusal to repeal the “Scaffold Law,” an insurance regulation that places absolute liability on construction firms regardless of fault in injury cases. No other state has such a law. Analysts estimate this single law costs New York taxpayers $750 million per year on public projects and an undetermined amount for private projects.
Stony Point Councilman Tom Basile is a senior adviser to Reclaim. His 2013 campaign for council also focused on affordability. He says New York has “reached a tipping point.”
According to Basile, “The cost of government is preventing people from saving and building the life they envision for their families. The best way we can begin to solve this affordability crisis is for more people engage with their government and demand solutions, particularly at the state level.  As citizens we pay more than 200 taxes and fees and are subject to more than 2000 regulations that drive up the cost of everything we do.  Our local governments are buckling under the weight of unfunded mandates from Albany that make it harder to reduce costs, increase efficiency and attract investment to our communities.  Both those scenarios impact the long-term financial stability of virtually everyone who lives here.”
Muir told the Rockland County Times he believes an awakening of citizen  awareness of government policy and its effects is key to seeing a turn around in New York. With this belief in mind, the Reclaim organization will host training sessions in each county in New York for the general public, as well as business and civic organizations. The goal is to help residents “better understand the affordability crisis” in New York.
Reclaim’s new report is their second on New York’s affordability crisis, the first being released last year on Long Island.

Key Findings of the Report Include:

Across nearly all income levels, Hudson Valley residents are struggling to save and achieve financial stability:
  • A family in Tarrytown, only has 6 percent of their $78,227 local median annual income left for credit card debt, or childcare, after taxes and basic expenses.
  • Even at double the median income, a family in Spring Valley, Rockland County, only has 10 percent to try and save or pay other expenses. Another double-median income earning family in Fishkill, in Dutchess County, is left with just 6 percent after taxes and basic expenses.
  • Why does the Hudson Valley have such a high number of millennials leaving, or living with their parents? Recent college graduates in the Jefferson Valley area are left with just 4 percent of their income after taxes and basic living expenses, and before credit card and student loan debt.
  • Young people and low income earners simply cannot afford to live independently: A single person making $30,000 annually ends up with just 3 percent living in Middletown.
  • It’s no surprise retirees flee to Florida when retirement at age 65 is out of reach for many income groups. A couple earning the median household income in Pound Ridge has to save an estimated $329,991 just to pay property tax bills between retirement and age 85.
  • In the cases analyzed, income taxes cost residents as much as 40 percent of income, while property taxes can cost as high as 25 percent of a resident’s earnings. Transportation expenses cost 10 to 22 percent of income.
County-by-County:
  • In Westchester, a married couple in the City of Rye, earning the median income of $158,281 is left with just 10 percent to pay down debt, and other expenses after Wake-Up Costs. A family earning double the median income in Yorktown Heights ends up with as little as 12 percent left to save, pay down debt or invest.
  • Lower income residents in Westchester cities struggle the most.
    • Median income earners in Mount Vernon, making $40,492 annually, end the year in the red unless they add debt or cut back on basic expenses.
    • In Yonkers, a median income earning family at $45,893 per year can only save 1 percent of earnings thanks to city and state income tax, as well as one of the highest sales tax rates.
  • A Rockland County family earning $80,795, near the County median income, living in Nyack, is left with just 16 percent of their income after taxes and basic expenses.
    • Families in Pearl River earning the local median income of $99,741 only have 8 percent left.
  • In Putnam, a family of four in Carmel, making near the County median of more than $90,000, only has 9 percent remaining after Wake-Up Costs.
  • Families in New Windsor, in Orange County, who earn $68,784, just under the County median income, have only 5 percent left to pay down debt and save for the future.
  • In Dutchess County, a Beacon family of four, earning $75,979 (slightly above the County median income) will only save 7 percent after their taxes and basics.
    • A median income earning family in Poughkeepsie is left with just 2 percent of their incomes after Wake-Up Costs.
“This is a bad situation that is only getting worse as taxpayers flee the state, leaving fewer people to cover growing bills,” said Muir. “That’s why Reclaim New York is looking to engage residents to identify the impact of government on their futures, and ensure that we are making this state more affordable.”

Reclaim New York is 501C-3 non-profit organization unaffiliated with any political party. The group will continue to publish reports for regions across the state, including Central New York next. Find out if you can afford New York, use our online Affordability Calculator at ReclaimNewYork.org.

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