Four years ago my wife and I moved to Little Falls, we found a beautiful home in a bucolic setting. Not being familiar with the area, my biggest concern was whether Little Falls was a city on the rise or a town whose best days were behind it. I decided to speak with some local business owners to get their input. I found their answers to be full of hope for the future and trust in town leaders. At least that’s what I remember, I can’t ask them if they agree with my assessment because both they and their businesses are now gone. This week, I am joining them, my wife and I have sold our home and are leaving. Goodbye Little Falls, ultimately you made our decision for us.
The future of Little Falls, if it is to have one, lies in its ability to attract young middle-class, working families. Families who are looking for reasonably priced starter homes and a safe community for their kids. New homes represent a financial and spiritual commitment to an area, expand the tax base, and, most importantly, new families with discretionary income will provide the monetary oxygen for new downtown businesses, a downtown that is currently teetering on fiscal life support.
One would think this would be relatively easy to figure out and implement, Economics 101. After all, if there is one thing Little Falls has, it’s land. Just ask any solar panel production company. I am assessed a five-figure school tax bill every year so while I can’t speak to quality, I can certainly speak to cost. As for safety, well, I have never seen shinier police and fire trucks anywhere. So then why are no new homes being built, where are the young families? And yes, why am I leaving?
For four years I have been forced to adhere to an unfair and punitive tax policy championed by the inept lunacy of unqualified city officials. The recent, damning New York State Comptrollers report outlining the gross fiscal mismanagement of the City came as no surprise to me. The ludicrously high tax rates in Little Falls, based on an antiquated, convoluted, and overly complex formulation, absolutely crushes all incentive for young families to buy new homes or developers to build them. You cannot have new home construction with affordable tax rates when the average home in Little Falls is assessed at less than the cost of a fully-loaded Ford F150. Don’t believe me? Figure out the Little Falls tax bill on new home construction assessed at a mere $275,000.
Little Falls needs to hire a professional city manager and controller. Better educated and more experienced minds need to re-structure city and school tax formulations with revised property assessments. New home construction and small business development should be incentivized, not bludgeoned. Property assessments need to focus on formulas to stimulate middle-class housing growth, not discourage it.
Finally, I met many fine, smart people in Little Falls. But a city, through its executive leadership, needs to give back to taxpayers, show some visible signs of progress to its residents. All I have experienced from City Hall is an unrelenting taking, too much was never enough and I still can’t get a pothole fixed. So, Little Falls, from a person who no longer has a dog in this hunt, you are in trouble; and no one will be rooting louder for you to turn it around than me.
Little Falls (before yesterday)