Even in good times, property taxes are a significant expense for most families in Westchester. In these challenging times, property taxes should be delayed without penalty, just as federal and state income taxes have been, and just as many business taxes have been. Our County Executive, George Latimer, has proposed common-sense legislation would amend Westchester tax law to authorize towns to delay and waive penalties on county property taxes from April 30th, just under four weeks away, until July 15th for people who claim hardship due to the virus – which would mean virtually everyone gets relief. The July 15th deadline coincides with the extended deadline to file state and federal income taxes.
As we worry about our health and economic well-being in the wake of this pandemic, Latimer’s proposed delay in penalization would, as he put it, “buy some time for residents to keep themselves afloat until this pandemic passes.” I strongly support Latimer’s efforts to delay property tax collection until July 15th. Struggling property owners need cash now.
Unfortunately, some town supervisors, led by Chris Burdick, one of my opponents in the Democratic primary for the 93rd Assembly District, are fighting Latimer’s proposal. It would be one thing if the town supervisors claimed that they needed prompt tax payment to perform vital functions; I am a progressive Democrat and I very much understand that we need to pay taxes to have a functioning society (in fact, I support raising income taxes on the super-rich). But the supervisors’ excuse for collecting taxes is unacceptable, with politicians claiming that it would be “too hard” and Burdick saying it is technically “unworkable” to allow for hardship property tax extensions because of the paperwork involved. Nonsense. Taxpayers could easily apply for hardship online through an extremely simple form – if the relief wasn’t automatic – and if this process is truly too technically difficult for some towns (an argument that is difficult to believe), then the County could help create the internet platform.
In any event, our federal and state governments, which face equally severe financial strain from this crisis, have figured out how to delay collecting taxes when the economy is shut down. Our local governments must do so as well. I urge the County Board of Legislators to side with the taxpayers, not misguided town supervisors.