COUNTY EXECUTIVE GEORGE LATIMER, JOINED BY A BI-PARTISAN GROUP OF SCHOOL AND MUNICIPAL LEADERS, OUTLINES ACTION STEPS REGARDING THE WESTCHESTER COUNTY PROPERTY TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT

Focused on taking the burden off Westchester County property taxpayers, and combating the loss of the federal SALT deduction, Westchester County Executive George Latimer announced a series of actions in response to Governor Andrew Cuomo signing the Westchester County Property Taxpayer Protection Act. The announcement came during a press conference with nearly 60 elected officials, government leaders and school district leaders and advocates from both sides of the aisle standing in solidarity with the County Executive.

Those actions include:

-         Signing of an Executive Order to prohibit the County from independently selling County parkland that is over 2 acres;

-         Announcement that budget amendments will be introduced to stop the sale of County parking lots;

-         Moving $5 million dollars to the County’s reserve fund;

-         Directing the Departments of Budget and Finance that County Property Taxes throughout the County will be frozen for two years (FY 2020 and FY 2021); and

-         Announcing that of the nearly 70M dollars collected, 20 percent will go to local municipalities and 10 percent to the school districts.

All of these actions are outlined in the attached documents.

Additionally, the news that the County, which currently has an AA+/Negative from S&P, has increased its sales tax rate has been deemed a tremendous step forward in improving the County’s bond rating.  According to S&P Global Ratings, the increase is “a step toward restoring budgetary balance and will likely have a positive credit impact.”

Latimer said: “Today is the end of one-shot revenues and borrowing for operating costs.  We now have a creative source of revenue that is not an additional burden on the County’s property taxpayers. This tax freeze will help address the expected increases for many residents and taxpayers from the new Federal Tax Plan.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said: "This law, requested by the County Government, allows Westchester to have greater parity with neighboring counties while directly helping overburdened local governments and providing much needed funding to our local schools."

New York State Assemblyman and Westchester Delegation Leader J. Gary Pretlow said: “After years of questionable fiscal practices and the capping of the SALT federal tax deduction at $10K, Westchester County needed a way to get its finances back in shape without placing the burden solely on property taxpayers. The Westchester County Property Taxpayers Protection Act does just that. I commend County Executive George Latimer for his vision, my colleagues in Albany for their efforts and Governor Cuomo for signing this critical legislation.”

New York State Senator Shelley B. Mayer, Senate bill sponsor, said, “I was pleased to be the Senate prime sponsor of the Westchester County Property Tax Payer Protection Act to provide property tax relief to Westchester residents while securing additional aid to local school districts and municipal governments. The new sales tax rate will bring in over $70 million to Westchester County annually, with 20% of the funds going to local municipalities and 10% of the funds going to local school districts. The projected sales tax share for the remainder of 2019 will provide an additional $390,000 for the Port Chester School District, and over $400,000 for the Ossining School District. Creating parity in local sales tax rates is a fiscally prudent step forward for Westchester County and will have a positive impact on our municipalities and local school districts.”

New York State Assemblyman Tom Abinanti said: "The additional sales tax is a revenue-raising alternative to property taxes to fund basic and necessary services. The sharing formula in the legislation ensures that localities and school districts get additional revenue to ease the burden on local property taxpayers."

New York State Assemblyman David Buchwald said: "As a representative of portions of Westchester and lifelong resident of the county, I recognized we needed to act to put the County budget back on solid financial ground. The sales tax extender also supports local government and school district budgets."

New York State Assemblyman Steve Otis said: “This measure will provide much needed property tax relief for county, school and local taxpayers as well as correct financially irresponsible past practices at the county level. Stabilizing county finances, freezing county taxes and property tax relief for school and municipal taxpayers are steps in the right direction.”

New York State Assemblyman Nader Sayegh said: “Westchester doesn’t only have the highest property taxes in New York State, it’s the highest taxed county in the nation. The Westchester County Property Taxpayers Protection Act generates revenue while providing relief to our County’s homeowners without raising property taxes. This is a smart & effective policy which will protect thousands of homeowners whose lives have been impacted by recent changes in the Federal tax code over the last year.”

Board of Legislators Chairman Ben Boykin said: “This measure will stabilize Westchester’s finances, allow us to rebuild our fund balance, and ensure that we can continue to provide essential services to County residents. It also will bring millions of new dollars to our school districts and municipalities.  That will help mitigate the burden on the County’s property taxpayers.  I’d like to thank the County Executive, the Governor, our New York State Legislative Delegation, and all my colleagues on the County Board of Legislators, who passed this with overwhelming bi-partisan support.”

Board of Legislators Majority Leader Catherine Parker said: “I’m thankful to the County Executive for his leadership on this issue, and grateful to our state officials for their cooperation in getting this done. Westchester is one of the few counties that share this revenue with school districts and municipalities. This will mean more than $1 million to the municipalities and schools in my legislative district and that’s a big help in reducing the burden on local property taxpayers.”

Bedford Town Supervisor Chris Burdick said: “I congratulate County Executive George Latimer for his courageous leadership in stabilizing County finances and holding down property taxes at all levels.  What a wonderful development!” 

Briarcliff Manor Mayor Steven Vescio said: “The sharing of the 1% increase in local sales tax should be viewed as a progressive step in securing a more reliable, non-property tax based source of revenue.  For us, we believe that the substitution of the approximate $37,000 in annual ‘emergency CHIPs’ related funding that was originally proposed is a more stable, predictable and reliable revenue source.  We are a community of 8,000 people, in 6 square miles with over 40 miles of roads. Linked with the improving economy of our State and especially Westchester County, money spent here will actually stay here: Briarcliff will dedicate this revenue for road related improvements and upgrades making for a better and safer community.”

Cortlandt Manor Town Supervisor Linda D. Puglisi said: "Even though we don't like to see any new tax increases we supported this 1% additional County sales tax increase to assist Westchester County, as well as, our community.  We will be losing a tremendous amount of tax revenue once Indian Point, owned by Entergy, closes their two nuclear plants in 2020 and 2021.  The majority of this additional sales tax will go into a fund to offset our loss of revenue.”

Cortlandt Manor Town Councilman James Creighton said: “We in Cortlandt have been holding the line on taxes for decades, but it gets harder every year as federal and state funding programs are eliminated or scaled back.  As we work toward facing the huge challenge of mitigating the loss of $800,000 per year in revenue with the upcoming closing of Indian Point, we appreciate the creative solutions offered by the County to bring tax parity with surrounding counties while sharing a portion of the 1% sales tax with communities like the Town of Cortlandt and our school districts. We look forward to using the funds by giving more back to the community with extra paving projects and addressing other important infrastructure and recreation needs while keeping taxes low in Cortlandt.  We thank County Executive Latimer as well as the Governor and our legislators for supporting this measure.”

Dobbs Ferry Mayor Robert McLoughlin said: “The Village of Dobbs Ferry has kept our real estate taxes below the 2% cap for the last decade and has not increased the tax rate for the last two years. Thanks to George Latimer’s 1% sales tax increase as it spreads the burden over a much broader group of people rather than just increasing property owners taxes.  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.”

Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul Feiner said: “Westchester has had the distinction of having the highest property taxes in the country. I think this legislation is an important action step that will help us get rid of this unwanted distinction.”

Harrison Councilman Frank Gordon said: “The CE’s determined and successful pursuit of this initiative provides Harrison with a more solid financial footing on which to foster its programs for residents, from young families to older adults.”

Hastings-on-Hudson Mayor Nicola Armacost said: "County Executive George Latimer inherited a complicated budget situation, and I believe he has done an excellent job of coming up with a bipartisan solution that increases income for the County, and its towns and villages, while allowing the County to address its dire fund balance situation. I admire George for his straightforward honest approach to the situation - he has been transparent that sales taxes and property taxes can be regressive, but he points out that sales tax rates in Westchester were not uniform, and that this measure will actually even that out, as our larger towns have had higher tax rates than the rest of the county for years.”

Lakeland Schools Superintendent George Stone said: “As a school district that prides itself in sound financial management, the Lakeland Central School District applauds County Executive Latimer’s plan to restore a balanced approach that will limit property taxes and provide additional revenues to municipalities and school districts. As one of the leading financial areas in the nation, Westchester County should not be depleting reserves or borrowing to balance the budget, nor increasing the burden on property owners who already contribute significantly. In my district, these funds will be used to help offset the extensive unfunded mandates we are required by the State to provide without funding support. In particular we will be utilizing the funds to reduce our extensive district expenditures for safety and security measures which represent our primary responsibility.”

Larchmont Mayor Lorraine Walsh said: “We’re always grateful for a source of non-property-tax revenue. We plan to use a portion of these funds for additional road and sidewalk repair.” 

Lewisboro Town Councilman Dan Welsh said: “Here in Lewisboro we don't have a tremendous number of tools in the financial toolkit, and the budget is still largely a child of the 2008 financial crash. We are badly in need of funding for long-delayed capital improvements to our hamlets, the updating of the 30-plus-year-old comprehensive plan, and restoring reserves to prudent levels. While the exact revenue from sales taxes is never fully predictable, we will be very thankful to be able to apply any net increased receipts realized to these areas.”

Lewisboro Town Councilman John Pappalardo said: “This is a welcomed source of revenue for the Town of Lewisboro. The new Tax legislation from Washington has served to further tighten our revenue source from real estate and as a consequence this new pool of resources will aid us in managing our financial challenges”

Mamaroneck Village Mayor Tom Murphy said: “The Village of Mamaroneck is grayed for the additional revenue from the sales tax increase. We will use the windfall to keep our tax increase under the cap and provide the services our residents have come to expect.”

Mamaroneck Town Supervisor Nancy Seligson said: “The Governor’s approval of the increase in sales tax for Westchester County is ‘a win’ for the County budget and will help our Town’s budget as well.”

Mount Kisco Mayor Gina D. Picinich said: “This legislation is a smart plan to increase revenue while holding the line on property taxes. In Mount Kisco, the additional revenue will allow us to continue to invest in infrastructure while not overburdening property owners. We value County Executive Latimer’s partnership in sharing revenue with local municipalities and schools and his focus on restoring fiscal stability to the County.”

Mount Pleasant Town Supervisor Carl Fulgenzi said: “As Supervisor for the Town of Mount Pleasant, controlling taxes are always a top priority as they are a major concern for our residents and Town Board. We are always looking for additional revenue sources to help offset property taxes while providing quality services that our residents deserve. Although additional taxes of any sort are the last resort, the sales tax increase for Westchester County will be an additional revenue source to offset property taxes and fixed town costs.”

Mount Pleasant Councilwoman Laurie Rogers-Smalley said: “Anything we can do as a local government body to relieve our residents of the burden of property taxes is welcomed. The increase in sales tax gives the consumer the opportunity to control the amount of tax they pay but carefully scrutinizing their purchases. It is hoped that this will stabilize the recent increases in property taxes and give Westchester County residents much needed tax relief.”

New Castle Town Supervisor Robert Greenstein said: “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.”

New Castle Town Council Member Ivy Pool said: “I applaud George Latimer for his courage, ingenuity, and tenacity in proposing this sales tax, and I thank the County Board of Legislators for passing it. Residents in my town are reeling from the effects of the cap on the SALT deduction, so assurances from the County that property taxes will remain flat is very welcome, and the additional revenue to our municipality will help us to accomplish the same. In New Castle we will be able to add back to our budget items that we had to delay in this fiscal year, including needed equipment and technology enhancements for our police department, among other uses.”

North Castle Town Supervisor Michael Schiliro said: “The additional revenue will be used to provide further taxpayer relief to the residents of North Castle.”  

North Salem Town Supervisor Warren Lucas said: “We appreciate County Exec. George Latimer's leadership with the sales tax.   No one wants to pay more in real estate taxes and I view the sales tax as a discretionary tax.   There is no tax on food, there is no tax on clothing under $110 an item. To date North Salem borrows over half of the $450,000 we need each year to repave our Town roads.  In my yearly Budget message to the Townspeople I have stated that as extra money becomes available it must be applied to DA51122 - Road Paving.   With the estimated $275,000 in new Sales Tax that we are expecting, we can finally cover the entire $450,000/year and stop borrowing money to repave our roads.  This puts us on a far better financial footing.”

Ossining Town Supervisor Dana Levenberg said: “We are so pleased that our County Executive took the initiative to push to bring Westchester in line with our neighbors while also giving us another revenue source to help pay for much-needed infrastructure improvements in our Town. Responsible governance means understanding that having resources to maintain our public assets saves us all in the long run. Many thanks to CE Latimer as well as our state legislature and the Governor for approving this.”

Ossining Village Mayor Victoria Gearity said: “Greater sales tax revenue for Ossining means we can preserve local services without raising property taxes. That’s critically important in our community where our effective tax rate is high.”

Ossining Union Free School District Superintendent Dr. Ray Sanchez said: "I would like to thank the County Executive, the legislators, and the Governor for passing the proposal.   Over the past few years, we have struggled to maintain critical programs for the children we serve.   The anticipated new funding will help us make sure these programs are not cut, and that they continue to positively impact our children." 

Peekskill Deputy Mayor Kathleen Talbot said: “Returning more tax dollars to municipalities, especially lower income ones like Peekskill that struggle to meet the tax cap each year, will boost our ability to achieve more green initiatives to help meet our 2030 sustainability goals.”

Peekskill Common Council Member Colin Smith said: "We are very appreciative for this vital legislation. It will help our schools and cities get the resources they need without adding to our property tax burden. This is how county and state government can and should work together to find solutions. Now it’s on us to put this money to good use and invest in infrastructure, our downtowns and plans to support small businesses."

Pleasantville School District Superintendent Dr. Mary Fox said: “I thank the County Executive for his support of all public school students in Westchester County.  This investment in our children’s education will pay positive dividends and benefit all communities.  In Pleasantville, the funds will be used to support student centered initiatives in our new 5 Year Strategic Plan.” 

Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said: “This new sales tax revenue — shared by the County with municipalities and schools — allows us to jump-start some local infrastructure projects that have been difficult to fund. We are stronger together when County finances are stabilized and all municipalities share in the Westchester economy that we all work hard to build.”     

Port Chester Public Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus, Ph.D. said: “These additional funds will go far in helping to address increasing enrollment and to close the annual gap in foundation aid funding. We can also examine the many requests from our students and staff for programs that will further our mission of continuing to provide a broad based diverse curriculum that prepares the children in our care for success in a global environment.”  

Port Chester Village Trustee Frank Ferrara said: “I want to thank the County Executive for including local governments and school districts to share in the additional 1% sales tax that the County will be receiving under the newly adopted County sales tax increase. The plan for the Village of Port Chester is to put the revenue that’s received this year into a reserve fund to offset any unanticipated emergency spending that was not included in this year’s Village budget.”

Rye Town Supervisor Gary Zuckerman said: “The Town of Rye supports the efforts of the County Executive to reduce the property tax levy for all county property owners.”

Rye Neck School District Superintendent Dr. Barbara Ferraro said: “The Rye Neck School District thanks County Executive Latimer for his ongoing support of school districts.  The Rye Neck school district would use the funds received to restore cuts made to materials and supplies in the 2019 -20 budget.”  

  

Rye City Mayor Josh Cohn said: "The City of Rye is grateful for the County's efforts to secure, and its willingness to share, this sales tax increase.  The funds derived from this increase will help us with the enormous infrastructure spending we must undertake and ease the burden of that spending on our property taxpayers. Although any tax increase gives us pause, we welcome this one."

Tuckahoe Schools Superintendent Carl L. Albano said:  "The additional revenues generated by County Executive Latimer's Westchester County Property Tax Payer Protection Act will offset the expense of the expansion of Tuckahoe's school counseling program this year, which will enable us to effectively support the needs of our students and families. We deeply appreciate George Latimer's steadfast commitment to our public schools."

Yonkers City Council Majority Leader Michael Sabatino said: “The Property Tax Payer Protection Act will help the county fund the necessary services it provide without raising the property taxes.  This will allow for a balanced budget, a freeze on county property tax and sale tax parody throughout the county.  It will also elevate the bond rating for the County.”