Towns Get New Authority to Ease Burden on Taxpayers
On April 17, the Board of Legislators passed a measure authorizing towns in Westchester County to slash penalties by as much as 80% for late payments of county and town property taxes through July 15 of this year.
The penalty-reduction measure passed by a bi-partisan vote of 14-3.
Town and county property taxes and assessments are due April 30. That date is set by state law and cannot be changed by county law.
The penalty-reduction plan was developed with and supported by a majority of Westchester's Town Supervisors. It gives town governments which collect the taxes the ability to reduce the burden on taxpayers struggling during the COVID-19 epidemic, while ensuring that they have a program which they can manage for all taxpayers.
The approved measure applies to towns and not cities in Westchester, because the towns fall under a county law which is being changed. Cities do not fall under the same law and must take their own, separate actions on penalties, if they so desire.
The newly-passed measure authorizes towns to reduce the penalties they collect by 75% for taxes paid from May 1 - May 31 – to 0.5% from 2%. It reduces late-payment penalties by 80% for taxes paid from June 1- July 15 -- to 1% from 5%.
Towns may opt out of the penalty-reduction measure.
Board Chair Ben Boykin (D- White Plains, Scarsdale, Harrison), said, “This is a public health and an economic emergency that has touched every corner of this County. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to act to provide relief to taxpayers in our towns in a way that will also allow us to continue to provide essential services.”
Majority Leader MaryJane Shimsky (D - Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Hartsdale, Hastings-on-Hudson, Irvington) said, “Given the extreme economic distress caused by COVID-19, there will be taxpayers who will not be able to make prompt payment of their property taxes, and local governments are beginning to worry about their ability to continue providing needed services until the crisis is behind us. This legislation strikes a good balance between both concerns. The County Executive played a critical role in sounding the alarm on these needs. I thank him and our town governments for their leadership and advocacy.”
Catherine Borgia (D - Briarcliff Manor, Cortlandt, Croton-on-Hudson, Ossining, Peekskill), chair of the Board’s Budget and Appropriations Committee said, “I like to thank our Town Supervisors for their outstanding, collaborative, bi-partisan work in fashioning this solution. It is not perfect but it shows that together we can move quickly to provide some relief to taxpayers and make sure the towns and the county can continue to provide the people of Westchester with government services at a time when they are most needed.”