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Iona College Students Form Think Tank to Study the Challenges of Property Taxes on Senior Adults Living in Westchester County

Think Tank
New Rochelle, NY (July 31, 2014) Iona College students recently delivered a presentation at a special conference “Successful Aging – It’s Everybody’s Business" at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown, NY.

The presentation is the culmination of a semester-long project “Livable Communities Collaborative of the Westchester Public/Private Partnership for Aging Services".  The research team, eight Iona students and one student from the College of New Rochelle, conducted a study as part of a newly formed Think Tank in partnership with the Westchester Alliance of the Department of Senior Programs and Services (DSPS).

Their findings were presented at the conference in a paper titled “Are You Being Taxed Out of Westchester? - Students Offer Insights”. “We have been researching the challenge of property taxes on senior adults living in Westchester County, demographic trends and their public policy implications,” said Mary Hagerty, PhD, assistant professor of Political Science and International Studies and faculty research coordinator. “Our study identifies existing and potential state and local government policies regarding property taxes and senior adult homeowners.”

A traditional institutional approach was used for studying public policy in New York state and local government context, utilizing case study methods of interviewing active participants and community leaders. A questionnaire survey was developed and administered to older adults who are members of Learning in Retirement at Iona College (LIRIC) meeting. Community forums were organized in several locations to give the senior adults the opportunity to express their public policy needs and preferences.

Research findings, based  on a survey of 70 seniors attending a LIRIC meeting, suggest little support  for the assumption that high property taxes are inducing seniors to leave the County. H however,  two out of five seniors surveyed are burdened by housing costs (paying more than 30 percent of annual income on housing or rent, taxes and utilities), and nearly one in two surveyed claim that property taxes impact their daily lives.  

Major public policy issues identified by senior adults in the survey and in community forums include: health care affordability and/or access, transportation access to doctors and supermarkets, rising cost of living, and lack of affordable housing.  Dr. Hagerty added, “All local governments, and especially cities, are struggling from the effects of the Great Recession—declines in state aid and more limited tax collections. Although senior adults were the focus of the study, these issues extend beyond them to include middle and lower income adults and especially young adults who have the highest unemployment rates.”
The research team from Iona College included; John Bertino '15, Joelle Cheatem '15,  Katrina Frederick '14, Andrew Jordan '14, Savannah Lang '15,  James Murphy '14, Timothy O’Dwyer '15, and Thomas Severin '16.  Graduate gerontology student Jonelle Ward represented the College of New Rochelle.

John Bertino, Joelle Cheatem, Savannah Lang, James Murphy, and Thomas Severin of Iona College, and Jonelle Ward of the College of New Rochelle, presented their research findings at the Successful Aging Conference on June 27, 2014.
Upon conclusion of the presentation a recommendation was made by Commissioner Mae Carpenter of the DSPS that students present their research before the Westchester County Legislature. Future plans also include presenting this research in the spring of 2015 at the Faculty-Student Research Conference in the Washington State.

About Iona College:
Founded in 1940, Iona College is a four-year private coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and American Catholic higher education. It is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona College is the second largest private sector employer in New Rochelle, NY.

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