Sunday, Apr 14th

Residents Assessed Penalties for Late School Tax Payments

outraged(Updated February 18, 2024) Scarsdale is known for its high real estate taxes, but a suspected glitch in the tax notification process has caused some residents' tax bills to climb even higher. We got distressed calls from residents who only recently found out that they missed their first school tax payment – due by September 30, 2023 -- and the second, due on January 31, 2024 and were assessed high penalties. Some said they have lived here for years and never missed a payment, but this year they claim they never received a bill.

In fact, the Village Treasurer reported that the collection of the school portion of Village taxes is alarmingly slow this year. $13.6 million in school taxes that were due by January 31, 2024 remain uncollected. Since there are stiff penalties for late tax payments and the schools need this revenue to operate, this is a cause for concern among residents and the Village.

At the February 13, 2024 meeting of the Village Board, Village Treasurer Ann Scaglione said that only 91.24% of the school tax levy had been collected as of January 31, 2024, the lowest rate in the Village’s history. She said, “Our office has been focused on this for the last few weeks.”

In 2020 the Village moved to a two-part tax payment option. For school taxes, which are the largest portion of the tax bill, the Village mails one bill with two payment coupons the first due on September 30 and the second on January 31. For those who opt to pay in installments it is up to the resident to remember to pay the second installment by January 31. A second bill is not mailed. The same is done for Village taxes which are due on August 1 and December 31.

Scaglione said that in 2020, the first year the Village moved to the two-part installment option, 885 parcels were delinquent on their school taxes. Yet only 39 of those missed their first installment, with the balance, or 816 homeowners missing the second installment. This may indicate that everyone received their bill, but some forgot to pay the second installment.

However, this year Scaglione reported that 216 missed both the first and the second installments and 284 missed only the second installment.

Why did they fail to pay? People who are calling the Treasurer or coming to Village Hall say they forgot or they never received the original bill. Commenting online, residents blamed the Village, first for the failure of the mail and email notifications and second for not alerting them earlier that their first payments had not been received.

Residents who have been assessed thousands of dollars in penalties contend that something went wrong. In online comments they say that they never received their school tax bills in the mail in September (or to date) or email reminders and therefore they did not make a first payment. They only learned they were delinquent in January, some too late to avoid penalties on both payments. Penalties range from 2% to up to 12% for payments made after January 31, 2024.

Scaglione maintains that the office sent out paper bills and email notifications to all residents. She said her office has found that “it is not just one segment of people” who failed to be noticed. Her office is showing proof that the bills were mailed as well as providing the dates email notifications were sent to those who opted in for email reminders.

At the Village Board meeting Mayor Justin Arest made it clear that the Village does not want to collect penalties. He said, “We don’t want to collect this money – we don’t want our residents to pay penalties. That’s why we’re happy the Treasurer is sending out additional delinquent notices and hope that will bring in the revenues.” However, he said that the Village Treasurer’s office cannot waive the fees.

New York State law requires residents to pay their taxes, whether or not they are notified. It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to pay taxes on property they own. Even if the owner does not receive a tax bill, it is the owner’s obligation to secure a tax bill and make payment. The taxpayer, therefore, is liable for all penalties and interest on late payments.

Regardless of who is at fault, delinquent residents may still be liable for the penalties on their late school tax payments.

This is not the first time there was an issue with the tax installment payment plan. In 2020, there was an error in the printing process and though the coupons showed the correct amount to pay, the printed receipt showing assessed value and total tax information were not accurate. The Village did not send out new bills as the payment coupons were correct.

On Sunday night February 18, 2024, Mayor Justin Arest sent the following letter to those who had written to him about the tax issue:

Thank you for your email. I have heard from several residents with similar concerns. The Manager’s Office and I have started our own investigation (with the assistance of the Treasurer) into the matter. This will continue over the next week, and I hope to have more to share with the community soon. We are aware that many residents have stated that they never received their tax bills in the mail. We have been in communication with the USPS and have reached out to the regional post master. We have also spoken to our state elected representatives to see if there is any support they can provide. I am sensitive to the stress this is causing our residents, and we are doing everything we can to try to understand what took place and if there are any options moving forward. I am sorry I don’t have any more information at this time. It is my hope that more details will be forthcoming.

I expect to update the community at our next board meeting as well as via written communication.

Thank you for your email and for your patience as we examine what transpired.

Justin Arest

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