Property taxes may soon be frozen, but consumers in Westchester will also be paying an increased sales tax if County Executive George Latimer's plan is enacted.
Latimer has proposed “The Westchester County Property Taxpayers Protection Act,” which, if approved, would keep the property tax levy flat for two years, while raising sales tax 1 percent. The proposal would help stabilize the county’s finances after losing its AAA rating - the highest ranking available - in each of the Big 3 rating agencies, last year.
“As the bond rating agencies scored us and lowered our bond rating, put us on a negative outlook. I said at the time that was a fair assessment. Westchester is one of the four most stressed financial entities in New York,” he said.”
The County Executive said that Westchester is required to provide certain services for area residents, and that cutting them is not an option. Surrounded by a bi-partisan support group in White Plains on Thursday, Latimer said without some tax reform, Westchester “will go under.”
“The problem that we face [is] structural and it's very important to understand that that structural problem did not happen in a day, it did not happen in one budget and it's not going to be resolved in any one budget,” he said.
“If we do not get additional study forms of revenue outside of property tax revenue this county government will go under in due time so will the municipal governments.”
The current tax rate in most of the county is 7.375 percent. That rate is a point higher in Westchester’s biggest cities in Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and White Plains, and slightly higher than those in Yonkers. The proposal would see a jump to an 8.375 percent countywide, with Yonkers maintaining the highest rate.
The tax rate hike would go into effect over the summer, if approved by the state. It could generate nearly $150 million in sales tax revenue, approximately two-thirds of which would go back to the county.
Officials noted that the proposed rate is the same as Rockland County, and slightly lower than Nassau and Suffolk County on Long Island. The proposal is expected to be fast-tracked to Albany and should be finalized in a few months.
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