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Will Scarsdale Residents Get Tax Relief Due to the Economic Crisis?

TAxReliefWill Scarsdale taxpayers get any relief on payment of their real estate taxes due to the economic downturn? Some are calling for the Village to allow residents to pay their real estate taxes in installments or for the Village to waive late fees and interest charges for late payments. The Village taxes are due by July 31 and the school taxes are due by September 30 and each are payable in one lump sum

We asked Scarsdale Village Trustee Justin Arest for an update on what the Village might do to ease the burden on taxpayers. See what he said below:

His comments are followed by a letter to State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin from the candidates for Village Trustee from the Voter’s Choice Party.

justinJustin Arest Comments from Scarsdale Village Trustee Justin Arest:

"The health and safety of our community has been the Village’s main priority since the beginning of this crisis. However, with the adoption of the FY20-21 budget looming, the Village Board has started with emergency measures to fill potential gaps in budgeted revenues."

Arest continued, "The Village has been looking into potential possibilities to find possible forms of tax relief and is trying to determine what its options might be before making announcements.” 


When pressed about whether the Village is doing anything specific that could impact the upcoming property tax deadline, he added, “I think reducing or even possibly eliminating interest penalties on property taxes for two months [as the County is discussing] is a great idea. Last week, the Mayor, Village Staff, and our Village Attorney started working to determine the legal and operational feasibility of providing some flexibility for our residents with regard to the timing of payment of Village property taxes. While we are actively looking into the potential to manage real estate tax late fees, we are also proceeding cautiously to ensure that there are no unintended consequences. Making an announcement every time we start to investigate or work on something might only add to the already high level of uncertainty our residents face, so we believe it prudent to do our due diligence first. There may also be actions required by the Village Board, so if this is a feasible option, we will discuss it at our next public meeting. I am hopeful we will have this and other positive items on our agenda for our April 14th Village Board Meeting that will include a Public Hearing on our Tentative 2020-2021 Village Budget. Stay tuned.”

The Voters Choice Party has appealed to State Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin with their suggestions on tax relief. See their letter below:

Letter from the Voters Choice Party candidates:

Robert J. Berg
32 Tisdale Road
Scarsdale, New York 10583
(914) 522-9455
robertbergesq@aol.com

April 4, 2020

By e-mail (scousins@nysenate.gov)
Hon. Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Temporary President and Majority Leader
New York State Senate
188 State Street, Room 907
Legislative Office Building
Albany, New York 12247

By e-mail (paulina@assembly.state.ny.us)
Hon. Amy Paulin
Assemblywoman, District 88
New York State Assembly
Legislative Office Building 422
Albany, New York 12248

Re: Waiver of Statutory Late Fees and Installment Plans for Payment of 2020 Village and School Property Taxes

Dear Sen. Stewart-Cousins and Assemblywoman Paulin:

We hope that your families and you are safe and well during these very difficult days. We thank you for your service to our State and our Scarsdale community. As you well know, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic is hitting our State and our region particularly hard from both a health and an economic perspective. Our residents are struggling with collapsing businesses, job losses, and greatly depleted savings, while trying to protect their health and secure necessary food, supplies, and medicines safely for themselves and their families and neighbors. Meanwhile, the stream of bills, such as utility, rent, mortgage, repair, credit card, and car payments, flood in relentlessly. As we all juggle our finances to stay afloat, starting this month, we begin in the Village of Scarsdale the always daunting cycle of confronting our three sets of property tax bills – County, Village, and School District -- sadly, among the absolute highest in the entire country.VotersChoiceCandidatesSean Cohen, Robert Berg and Robert Selvaggio

Despite its reputation as one of the wealthiest communities in the nation, the reality is that fifty percent of our households earn below $250,000 annually. Of those households, the average annual income is just $146,000. While still high by statewide standards, the costs of housing, property taxes, and life in general in the Village of Scarsdale are steep and these “lower” household earners are the most susceptible to layoffs and reduced income during this crisis. Scarsdale residents at all wealth strata are badly affected by the depressed economy.

Against this frightening backdrop, the Village of Scarsdale and the Scarsdale Union Free School District are finalizing their budgets for their forthcoming fiscal years. Amidst the pandemic, the Village Board and the School Board are planning to raise their tax levies and tax rates to support their increased budgets – both by approximately 2% year over year. While we have urged both Boards to cut their budgets in order to give taxpayers some relief this year, they have rejected our recommendations.

But even if they do not reduce their budgets, perhaps, with your help (and the help of the Legislature and Governor), you can ease our cash flow problems by passing legislation that would waive the onerous statutorily-imposed late fees (interest) on property tax payments and allow for taxpayers to make proportionate installment payments (without any late fees) over the course of the next fiscal year to the Village and the School District based upon the cash flow needs of each entity.

Under our proposal, the State legislation would enable Towns, Villages, and School Districts to offer their taxpayers the option of paying their Town, Village, and/or School District property taxes in several installments over the next fiscal year without interest or penalty. Each governmental unit would be authorized to determine the appropriate proportional share of the tax levy required by the unit per installment to fund the unit’s budget for the particular period. By matching taxpayers’ payments more closely to the governmental units’ actual cash flow needs, taxpayers will be better able to manage their own finances during the inevitably challenging economic times over the next fiscal year. Our proposal would be for legislation that sunsets after one year, subject to renewal by the Legislature and Governor should economic conditions warrant. Moreover, our proposal would allow governmental units to opt out should they determine that the legislation unduly interferes with their cash flow requirements.

Thus, our proposal differs from the one presently being considered by the Westchester County Board of Legislators. The current version before the Board of Legislators seeks to offer taxpayers the opportunity to delay payment of their County property taxes (presently due by April 30, 2020) for one month with a .5% penalty if payment is made by May 31, 2020, or a 1% penalty if payment is made by July 15, 2020. Under the County proposal, Towns may opt out and Cities in Westchester County are not eligible to participate.

We look forward to your thoughts and comments.

Respectfully,

Robert J. Berg
32 Tisdale Road
Scarsdale, NY

Sean D. Cohen
35 Chesterfield Road
Scarsdale, NY

Robert D. Selvaggio
16 Rochambeau Road
Scarsdale, NY

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