By Barrett Seaman
Surrounded by some 40 elected officials and school superintendents, County Executive George Latimer rolled out a package of tax adjustments designed to give some relief to property owners on the one hand while adding a point to the county’s sales tax on the other. At a press conference held at Greenburgh Town Hall, the county’s top elected official confirmed plans reported in the July issue of The Hudson Independent but added considerable detail.
Naturally, Latimer’s emphasis was on the two-year freeze on property taxes for fiscal years 2020 and 2021 that will lock property tax revenues in at $571 million for those two years—a benefit largely paid for by an increase in the sales tax from 7.375% to 8.375% that was approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Cuomo. Revenues from that increase, estimated at $58 million, would be partly re-distributed to municipalities ($12 million) and school districts ($6 million).
While some critics charge that the one point tax increase is really more than 13%, Latimer contended that the incremental increase (do the math: 7.375 divided by one = 0.135) does not reflect what happens; that a one point tax increase on a $100 item would be only one dollar more. Allowing that a sales tax is indeed regressive, he argued that a property tax increase “is even more regressive” in that a property owner has no choice but to pay it, whereas a consumer could pay less sales tax by buying a cheaper item.
Latimer also defended against charges that the higher sales tax would drive consumers out of the county to make their purchases. Not so, he responded. “When you shop locally in the town you live in you generally shop there because it’s physically convenient to you. When you make the decision to drive a further distance of any sort it’s because you’re looking for diversity of product or you’re looking not just to find one product in one kind of store but a series of things that you might find in a mall or defined shopping area.”
The County Executive’s clear message in surrounding himself with local officials was to highlight the financial benefits village governments and schools would get from the portion of the sales tax revenues that would come back to them. If the municipal share is 20%, Dobbs Ferry would get $849,855 from this August through the end of 2020, $581,000 of it next year alone. Irvington would get a total of $501,708 for the same period, while Tarrytown’s share would be $881,271.
School systems will benefit as well, though they will receive half the monies local governments will get. Kristopher Harrison, Irvington’s superintendent, figures his district will reap approximately $236,000 from the sales tax. “The administration will collaborate with the Board of Education to identify the best use for these funds that will support the District’s implementation of its strategic objectives,” he wrote in an email.
The County Executive came pre-armed with accolades from his fellow elected officials. Dobbs Ferry Mayor Bob McLoughlin stated: “We stand to receive over $500,000 of additional revenue that will help us with our efforts to maintain and rebuild our infrastructure including roads, sidewalks, sewers, technology and first responder safety equipment.” After the event, Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray, whose village government stands to receive $771,316 over the next 18 months, said: ‘”This additional—unbudgeted—revenue that we can now expect to receive this year is greatly appreciated.”