The Town Board met early this afternoon and had a discussion with representatives from the state regarding the Governor’s Executive Order allowing partial payments this year for 2018 taxes. I have been working on this issue non-stop since the Governor signed the Executive Order on Friday, along with other Town Board members and Town staff.
The Town Board will definitely authorize the pre-payment of the town and fire portion of the 2018 taxes starting noon tomorrow. We approved the 2018 budget and are complying with the requirement that a warrant be filed.
While counties are specifically authorized in the Governor’s Executive Order to allow pre-payment of taxes and the county has adopted a budget for next year, the Executive Order makes clear that the town may not collect county taxes, or any other taxes, without warrant. We have not yet received a warrant from the county and, therefore, we cannot collect partial payment of county taxes. I have reached out to our Westchester County Legislators and the County Executive requesting a warrant. I hope the County Executive and/or Board of Legislators will issue a warrant quickly.
Members of the Town Board and I were in touch with the Governor’s office over the weekend and today. We spoke with the General Counsel to the New York State Department of Taxation today. They promised to get back to me and the rest of the Town Board later tonight regarding school taxes—whether they are part of the executive order. A member of the Hastings on Hudson School Board, Lisa Eggert Litvin, participated in the meeting and wrote the following after the meeting that she posted on facebook:
Hi all. I attended the Greenburgh town meeting. I'll share what we know so far.
There are two issues going on, one easy, one not so easy. The easy one is that the Governor's Executive Order (EO) clearly allows HOH residents to make the tax payment that is due no later than Jan. 31, 2018 by Dec. 31, 2017 and take the tax deduction. (I am not giving advice whether to do so or not - just saying that this is allowed by the EO - and in the end it's possible that the EO is litigated and undone.) And yes, if your mortgage payments include your tax payments, you may well need to talk with your bank to avoid a double payment.
The harder part is whether there's a way to allow residents to prepay taxes for the 2018-2019 school year by Dec. 31, 2017, and enjoy whatever deduction they can. At the Greenburgh town meeting, we spoke with the tax arm of the Governor's office. They couldn't answer all of our questions and promised to get answers to Paul Feiner, Town Supervisor, sometime today or tonight.
We learned that without the issuance of a "warrant," there will be no way for a taxpayer to deduct; Gov's office says that a warrant is the trigger for deductibility. (Assuming that's correct, then what Scarsdale is doing won't work.) (As an aside, a "warrant" is not the tax bill you get in the mail; it’s one document prepared by the governing body, like school board, that is then delivered to town supervisor.)
The pressing questions for us are 1) can a school board (also can a village) issue a warrant without having yet set a budget? [Budget timetables don't allow for a budget to be set.] 2) Following that question, is there a mechanism for school board (or village) to issue a "warrant" for taxes, without a firm budget, say based on 2017 taxes, and then have a later reconciliation, where taxpayers pay the difference between the amount charged now and what we adopt in mid May, our traditional budget time.
And also know that in these days, nothing is for certain. We can do everything in our power, with the best advice, and down the road it could all be legally undone....
We are promised answers to these questions and I or Paul will share when we know, whenever that is.
I will provide residents with an update after we speak with the Governor’s office later today.
If you are interested in making tax payments in 2017, and have not already paid the second-half of the 2017-2018 school taxes, you should do so by the end of 2017 (even though you have until January 31, 2018 to pay the second half without penalty). If your school taxes are paid by your bank as part of a mortgage escrow you should contact your bank and provide proof of payment so the bank is on notice that the bank need not make the second half payment again.
It is very important that residents speak with a financial advisor to determine if pre-payment of taxes is appropriate for their specific financial circumstances. The town, pursuant to the Executive Order, is simply making the option available, without taking a position regarding its deductibility, appropriateness or subsequent authorization.
PAUL FEINER, Supervisor
Town of Greenburgh
Francis Sheehan, Councilman