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***Full press conference can be seen HERE.***

SalesTax1 002February 14, 2019 - Focused on taking the burden off Westchester County property taxpayers and combating the loss of the federal SALT deduction, Westchester County Executive George Latimer is calling for the passage of the Westchester County Property Taxpayers Protection Act.  The Act would allow for freezing property taxes for the next two years, FY 2020 and FY 2021; allocate 30% of new revenues to local governments and school districts to assist their budgets and tax relief efforts; ensure an annual increase in the County’s reserve fund, as well as end reliance on one-shot revenues and borrowing for operating costs; and create sales tax parity across all of Westchester’s communities, bringing the rate in line with other counties including Rockland and Putnam, and other cities including White Plains, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle. The new countywide standard rate of 8 3/8% would still be lower than that in effect in Yonkers, New York City, Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

The additional 1% in sales tax is estimated to bring in about $140 million/year in new revenue, 20% of which will be shared with the local municipalities and 10% with the school districts.  In exchange for this Act, Latimer has committed to maintain the County property tax levy for FY 2020 and 2021 at the same level as this year, FY 2019. This tax freeze will help address the expected increases for many residents and taxpayers from the new Federal Tax Plan, which eliminates all but $10,000 in state and local tax exemptions (SALT).

Latimer said: “This is about generating revenue without raising property taxes, by reaching sales tax rate parity.  Westchester cannot meet its annual financial obligations in the years to come without steady new revenue; this position has been affirmed by the State Comptroller’s Audit of the County, and the three bond rating agencies that assess creditworthiness for governments. We will fall into State Fiscal Control, with our bond rating dropping further. Anyone who tells you otherwise is simply not telling you the truth. Further, Westchester cannot raise property taxes at any significant level over the next few years - we have reached a saturation point, given school and local taxes as well. As Governor Cuomo has said, and fought against at the federal level, the loss of the full SALT exemption will be hitting our property tax payers hard.  

In my first year, we kept our property tax levy increase below neighboring counties such as Rockland and Putnam, but even this level is unsustainable. We need non-property tax revenue to deliver our services – most of which is mandated by the State of New York. 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.”

Of the 70% that the County will collect, Latimer said there will be priority on rebuilding the County’s Reserve Fund.   The goal is to grow it back to $150 million, up from the current $70 million.  It is anticipated that the increase will satisfy the bond rating agencies, leading them, over time, to raise the County’s bond rating back to AAA.

Additionally, as it currently stands the County will have a structural deficit in 2020 and 2021.  It has been projected that if sales tax grows at 3%, and the County stays within the property tax cap the County will not be able to meet our operating expenses. Latimer said the additional revenue source will also eliminate the need for one-shot finance proposals, and end borrowing for any annual operating expenses. 

Cortlandt Town Supervisor Linda Puglisi said her town stands to gain nearly $1.58 million dollars a year, more than closing the gap to be left by Indian Point’s closure: “Every community faces challenges, but here in the town of Cortlandt, we stand to lose 800k a year in revenue with the closing of Indian Point.  We need creative solutions to make up that money and this 1% sales tax will be very helpful. With this measure we stand to gain $1.58 million a year.  That would not only help us make up our loss, but it will also help us give back more to the community with extra projects such as paving, water line replacements and more.  These dollars will also help us continue to keep taxes low in Cortlandt, something we have done with great pride. I urge the Governor and other top Albany lawmakers to support this measure.” 

The Town of Greenburgh will have an extra estimated $2.1 million dollars a year.  Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner: “I am glad to see Westchester County Executive George Latimer taking this lead with New York State.  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.” 

Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said of the $1.3 million estimated to go to his town: “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.”

North Salem will see approximately $258k a year under the Act, North Salem Town Supervisor Warren J. Lucas said: "Increasing a consumption revenue source other than real estate taxes is welcome.  The Town currently receives over 8% of its budget from sales tax.  Any additional increase will be used to offset future real estate tax increases. I thank the County Executive for this work on this creative initiative.”

Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson said the extra roughly $607k a year will go a long way for her town: “The County of Westchester needs to resolve a budget gap created by the previous County Executive who refused to adequately fund County government by not raising taxes for 8 years. A variety of efforts are required to raise much needed revenue. Westchester County currently has a lower sales tax rate than many other counties and cities. All villages and towns will benefit from the increase and the cities will not be harmed.”

New Castle Town Supervisor Robert J. Greenstein said the extra nearly $891k a year will go a long way for him to help keep taxes low: “Our property taxes are a problem that cannot be ignored.  We must find ways to reduce the property tax burden on our residents.  If paying more in sales tax in exchange for lower property taxes accomplishes that, it's worth exploring.  Our elected officials must be willing to make difficult choices.  I applaud County Executive George Latimer for doing just that.”

 

An extra approximately $960k will be given to the village of Mamaroneck, Mamaroneck Mayor Tom Murphy said: “Westchester County, and all of the municipalities within the County, need another revenue source besides crippling property taxes to meet the infrastructure demands of aging suburbs. This is a creative revenue source and I applaud the County Executive’s efforts.”

Mount Kisco Mayor Gina D. Picinich said the estimated $551k a year will help her keep the taxes low in her community: “Every organization requires fiscal strength and stability to ensure the delivery of services. Government is no different. Our County Executive has put forward a smart plan to generate needed revenue, build reserves and hold property taxes. The proposal includes the County sharing more revenue with local municipalities; that’s what partnership is all about. It would be wise for the NYS Legislature to give the County the latitude to generate revenue needed to keep a cap on property taxes, and give Westchester a more firm financial footing.”

Nearly $297k will be going to the Village of Larchmont under the plan, Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh said: “I fully support the County Executive’s request for an increase in the County sales tax rate.  Increased non-property tax revenue would help local governments meet their goal of staying under the tax cap, while maintaining or increasing the level of service provided to residents.”

Village of Tuckahoe Mayor Steve Ecklond said he welcomes the extra nearly $329k yearly: “I support County Executive Latimer's proposal for the 1 % County sales tax increase. Here in the village of Tuckahoe we welcome all plans to reduce the property tax burden on our residents.  I applaud the County Executive for this initiative, our residents need all the assistance we can get.”

The estimated extra 1 million dollars a year going to Somers is welcomed by Somers Town Supervisor Rick Morrissey: “The town of Somers has a long history of maintaining low municipal tax rates, which we’ve been successful in doing by not relying on significant real estate tax increases to fund operations. Westchester County’s proposal to increase the sales tax by 1% is a feasible alternative to generate necessary revenues over a wide base, without hiking real estate taxes on overburdened Westchester property owners. These revenues will also be shared with local governments across Westchester, enabling us to make strategic investments within our communities without further reliance on property tax increases. I urge the Governor and NYS Legislature to support this proposal.”

An extra approximately $551K could be going to Dobbs Ferry. Dobbs Ferry Mayor Bob 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. This 1% sales tax increase would spread the burden over a much broader group of people rather than just property owners. 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.”

Scarsdale Mayor Dan Hochvert said he welcomes the extra $870k: “Sales tax is an integral part of the Village of Scarsdale's non-property tax revenue. An increase in the sales tax helps to take pressure off property taxes."

Elmsford Village Mayor Robert Williams said the extra roughly $236k a year will go a long way for the village: “We support County Executive Latimer’s call to increase the sales tax. No one likes tax increases, but increasing the sales tax will help keep local property taxes down. The sales tax is paid for by a much bigger audience as people from out of Westchester come to shop here and they pay into it too; this lightens the load for Westchester residents. Westchester County is either the only county or one of only a few counties that give a percentage of the sales tax money back to local communities. This non property tax money helps the local communities keep our property taxes low.”

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont said an extra estimated $1.3 million dollars will help his community: “Westchester County residents pay one of the highest property tax rates in the country while having one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state. I am confident that a small increase in sales tax will not only promote economic stability, but will bring us in to parity with other counties in our region.” An estimated $258k could go to Pound Ridge, Pound Ridge Town Supervisor Kevin Hansan said: “I applaud County Executive George Latimer for looking for different ways to create revenue. This is a consumption tax that spreads across a wider range of people, rather than placing the burden only on the backs of property tax payers.”

Port Chester Mayor Richard Falanka said Port Chester could really use the $1.4 million dollars they are slated to receive: “The additional revenue that can come from this increase would help Port Chester. I support the County Executive on this increase.”

Village of Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell said the proposed $572k could not 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."

Village of Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg welcomes the approximately $474k a year to his Village: “With the reduction in state aid to counties and local municipalities, it is unfortunately necessary to raise revenues from other sources in order to keep providing services to our neediest residents and businesses. I support County Executive Latimer’s efforts to raise these funds from an increase in the County sales tax.”

Town of Rye Supervisor Gary Zuckerman said: "The proposed increase in the county sales tax will potentially lift a burden from County property owners by partially replacing a regressive property tax with a consumption tax.  In this era of the tax cap, where local governments at all levels must continue to provide services while their revenues are limited, the modest increase in sales tax will provide relief to responsible governments and their property tax paying residents."

Mayor of the City of Rye Josh Cohn welcomes the $797k estimated to go to his city: "The County and its constituent localities bear constantly rising costs that cannot be ignored.  As unappealing as any tax increase is, this 1% sales tax increase will help provide badly needed funds to support County and local services and infrastructure."

Irvington Mayor Brian C. Smith could see an extra estimated $325k a year for his municipality: “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 with his proposed 1% sales tax increase, especially as he coupled it with a pledge to not increase the tax levy for two years. Additionally, his idea to share the additional sales tax revenue with local municipalities and school districts will help me with my goal to not increase property taxes in Irvington.”

Town of Ossining Supervisor Dana Levenberg said the anticipated $274k a year will help:  “As all of us continue to grapple with aging infrastructure and limited resources, and State mandates that while well-intentioned, frequently come with higher price tags but no reimbursements, this extra sales tax revenue has the potential to keep our property taxes in check while helping the county get its fiscal house in order. None of us like higher taxes and we continue to look for places to save, but this new rate is not out of line with surrounding counties and will maintain our competitiveness while helping us ensure a higher quality of life for our residents.”

Ossining Mayor Victoria Gearity said the estimated $1.2million will help her keep taxes low: "I am impressed by the commitment of county leadership to restore the reserve fund, while holding the line on property taxes. Aligning the Westchester sales tax with surrounding counties is a responsible step toward correcting years of short-sighted fiscal policies. The Village of Ossining will make use of the increased sales tax revenue to further our efforts to reduce the effective tax burden for local residents."

Peekskill Mayor Andre Rainey is looking forward to the possibility of Peekskill getting $1.1million a year:   “Westchester County Executive George Latimer has proven his concern for the people in the communities for which he serves. This suggestion can benefit our entire County and I support the initiative. I thank CE George Latimer for his consistency in creating proactive ideas, which help make up for our past, as well as improve our future.”

The Town of Lewisboro could receive $629k a year.  Town of Lewisboro Supervisor Peter Parsons said: “I am heartily in favor of this initiative. Currently Westchester County, its Towns and Villages are overwhelmingly dependent on property taxes. The result is high real estate taxes and often lower sales taxes than our neighbors. In particular a more balanced tax structure will help our seniors, who are often house poor in a market where selling their homes is often difficult.”