by Robert Kimmel –
Municipal leaders in the rivertowns are rallying around Westchester County Executive George Latimer’s call for a two-year freeze on property taxes coupled with an increase in the county’s sales tax. The request is in the form of legislation presented to state lawmakers, labelled the Westchester County Property Taxpayers Protection Act.
“This is about generating revenue without raising property taxes by reaching sales tax parity,” Latimer stated. “We need non-property tax revenue to deliver our services, most of which are mandated by the State of New York. Westchester cannot raise current property taxes at any significant level over the next few years, as we have reached a saturation point, given school and local taxes as well.”
Latimer noted that the property tax freeze for 2020 and 2021 could help taxpayers who are facing the new Federal Tax Plan limiting to $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes they are able to deduct from their income tax.
The proposed 1% sales tax increase would “bring in about $140 million a year in new revenue,” Latimer said. Of that, 20% would go to local municipalities and 10% to the county’s school districts. The hike brings the sales tax to 8 3/8%, which is still lower than that tax for purchases in Yonkers, New York City, and in Nassau and Suffolk counties, Latimer related. It would also bring it in line with the sales tax in White Plains, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle.
Of the expected $575,000 annual gain anticipated for Tarrytown, Mayor Drew Fixell said that it couldn’t come at a better time for his village. “While none of us relish the prospect of raising the sales tax, given the prior county executive’s policies which led to the current financial problems, this proposal does appear to be the most reasonable and responsible option available,” Fixell said.
Sleepy Hollow Mayor Ken Wray said he supports the proposed rule and saw benefits for his village.
An estimated $325,000 a year could come to Irvington from the proposed new sales tax, according to Mayor Brian Smith. “I am happy to see Westchester County Executive George Latimer continuing his focus on minimizing property tax increases while maintaining essential services. I support his idea to spread the tax burden over a broader group of residents and non-residents,” Smith said. He added that it would help him with his goal of not increasing property taxes in Irvington.
Dobbs Ferry Mayor Robert McLoughlin stated, “The 1% sales tax increase would spread the burden over a much broader group of people rather than just property owners.” Dobbs Ferry stands to get approximately $240,000 extra annually from the sales tax increase.
“This additional revenue will help us with our efforts to maintain and rebuild our infrastructure including: facilities, roads, sidewalks, sewers, technology and first responder equipment,” McLoughlin said. ““I strongly urge our state lawmakers including Governor Andrew Cuomo to fully support Westchester County Executive George Latimer’s request for a 1% sales tax increase.”
Local town supervisors also saw major advantages for their municipalities from the proposed legislation. Greenburgh is likely to see an additional $2.1 million a year from the sales tax boost. “I am glad to see County Executive George Latimer taking this lead with New York State,” Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said. “Here in Greenburgh, I’m concerned property tax payers are overburdened, and that the local housing market suffers. But, by spreading the weight over a much broader group of people with a 1% sales tax, property taxes can be kept low. This is a creative revenue source and I applaud the county executive’s efforts.”
An estimated $1.3 million would be added annually to Mount Pleasant’s revenue from the higher sales tax. Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said, “Raising taxes of any kind for our residents is never ideal; however, I support this effort which will help stabilize County property taxes and as a result, will help to control Mount Pleasant’s property tax.”
Westchester County’s 70% share of the increase would be directed mostly toward “rebuilding the County’s Reserve Fund,” according to Latimer. “The plan I have presented is prudent and plausible and avoids us undertaking further draconian service cuts, massive layoffs and irresponsible one-shot sell offs of assets.”