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Westchester County Exec Signs Property Tax Relief Measure, Details Gradual Reopening

Courtesy of Westchester County government

The Westchester County executive signed a property tax relief bill Monday. The aim is to help taxpayers alleviate financial difficulties brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. The county executive also delivered a COVID-19 update. As WAMC’s Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Allison Dunne reports, a slow reopening is expected.

Westchester County Executive George Latimer signed the bill during a virtual conference with county Board of Legislators, who passed it April 17. The new law complements the Executive Order Governor Andrew Cuomo granted to Latimer to go forward with a plan to remove fees for county residents and businesses for the late payment of their property taxes.

“Those that do not quality under an economic hardship, the Board of Legislators has advanced legislation which would lower the existing late fees that currently exist, and will apply to those taxpayers that pay after the April 30th deadline, but up to and prior to the July 15th date that was established,” Latimer says.

To provide assistance to the cities and towns that collect these taxes, the Executive Order allows for the county executive to accept less than 60 percent of the taxes due on May 25 from towns and cities, as long as the municipalities waive residents’ late fees for the late payment of property taxes up to July 15th. Board of Legislators Democratic Majority Leader MaryJane Shimsky:

“I’m happy that we have come up with two ways that will at least help our taxpayers space out what they have to deal with, what their economic priorities are in the next several months,” Shimsky says.

Conservative Margaret Cunzio is Board of Legislators minority leader.

“It just goes to show that, during these times, the most important thing is get government to work together to make government work,” says Cunzio.

Again, Latimer:

“We have a two-tiered system in place. We’re going to be working the local governments to make sure that the implementation as smooth as possible. As you would normally pay your April 30th bill, if you believe that you have an economic hardship, call the local government, the city or the town that you live in, they’ll give you instructions on what to do, and you can proceed from there,” says Latimer. “By Friday, we’re into the month of May. If you have not paid your taxes by the month of May because of your circumstances, call your municipal tax office again and they will advise you as what to do. And if there are any hiccups along the way, we’ll certainly work them to the best of my ability.”

Latimer went on with the day’s statistics that he says represent a flattening of the curve regarding active cases and the number of people hospitalized.

“We have, as of today, total positives, 28,007 number of cases, total positives, but the number of active cases, people that have not cleared the two-week incubation period for the disease, are now down to 8,221,” Latimer says. “And, to put that in perspective, that is less active cases of COVID-19 in Westchester County today than existed on March 29th.”

“We now have 877 people hospitalized for COVID,” says Latimer. “That is down dramatically from almost 1,200 people just about two weeks ago.”

He says 962 county residents have died. Meantime, a temporary hospital the state set up at the Westchester County Center to handle overflow capacity is not needed for this purpose at the moment.

“What we do with that health facility as it exists now, we’ll talk with the governor, give some insight. We’ll talk to some of our local officials as well, and we’ll have some idea of where we go forward because that facility is available for this period of time,” says Latimer. “We’ll see how long it needs to be at this configuration.”

Latimer also announced some recreation openings.

“So we have determined, as striking a reasonable balance, so rather than shut everything down and rather than keep everything open like the wild, Wild West, we will pick and choose,” Latimer says. “In that picking and choosing, we made the decision to open the Bronx River Parkway next Sunday for the first weekend of Bicycle Sunday.”

He says if social distancing and mask-wearing rules are not observed, he’ll consider rescinding Bicycle Sundays.

“We also reopened two of the county’s six golf courses this weekend Hudson Hills in Ossining and Mohansic in Yorktown. I visited both of those two facilities over the weekend,” Latimer says. “I saw the proper social distancing. I saw a completely restructured flow, protections for the workers who were there and protocols that made it possible for a person to enjoy a round of golf.”

“You do not open a pool. You do not open an amusement park,” Latimer says. “You do have an afternoon bicycling for the family on an open roadway."

Generally, Latimer says he is prepared to open spaces where people can practice social distancing, while respecting Governor Cuomo’s orders.

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