County’s Proposed 2020 Operating Budget Offers Property Tax Decrease

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By Robert Kimmel

It has been almost a decade since Westchester County’s operating budget has included a reduction in the County’s property tax levy; however, that will likely happen in next year’s budget.  County Executive George Latimer has proposed a 2020 operating budget which includes a $1 million dollar property tax decrease.

When disclosing his budget proposal before a group of County and local officials Friday, Latimer said, “We made a commitment to freeze County property taxes, and now we can go a bit further and cut the County’s property tax levy by $1 million. This budget is about the people who live in Westchester County and about giving them some property tax relief, and at the same time working to make their County the best it can be – by providing services and programs taxpayers rely on while placing the County back onto solid financial ground.”

The Westchester County Taxpayers Protection Act is credited with paving the way for the decrease from last year’s total property tax levy. That legislation returns 20% back to municipalities and 10% to school districts. Those share-backs are also responsible for curtailing any increase in the Town of Greenburgh’s property tax rate, according to Town Supervisor Paul Feiner. A total of approximately $3.2 million in those revenues is now expected to be received by the Town in 2019 and 2020.

Supervisor Feiner stated, “The reason why the town was able to have a 0% tax increase is because of the decision of Westchester County Executive George Latimer to share revenues from the sales tax with local governments.  This shared revenue will make it easier for all local governments to comply with the tax cap and work to end Westchester’s distinction of having the highest property taxes in the United States.”

The overall County Operating budget of $2.1 billion also requires no borrowing for operating expenses. In addition, it will direct $10 million toward the County’s reserves, an increase of 23% over last year’s funding for replenishing what had almost been depleted prior to Latimer’s administration.

Funding totaling $1.5 million dollars is also slated for “…new Housing and Community Development initiatives, focusing on not only building affordable housing, but also education initiatives to enable more Westchester families to move toward homeownership,” Latimer’s office noted.              

        Other dollars are directed toward economic development, environmental initiatives and “to meet the new state mandates for criminal justice reform and election reform.”  The information from the County Executive’s office also stated, “After the rash of hate crimes in the County, Latimer is also refocusing on the County’s Human Rights Commission and adding the position of a Hate Crime Specialist to the department.   Additionally, dollars have been set aside for Anti-Bias Educational Programs for Schools and College Campuses.”

While relating that Playland had a “banner year…with the highest attendance for the past four years,” the County Executive “is continuing to invest in the Park this time by increasing Playland’s marketing budget by $250,000, bringing the total amount now to $1.2 million in 2020,” his office release stated.

County Executive Latimer’s budget also calls for changes in the methods the County utilizes to administer its daycare program, “by reducing the parent contribution for childcare from 27% to 25%, eliminating hourly billing and granting a 3% provider increase.”

The budget has been turned over to the Westchester County Board of Legislators which is required, by Charter, to pass it by December 27, 2019.

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