County Executive’s Corner: Taxes: Everyone has to pay up

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BY ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE ED DAY  

Last spring, I announced an aggressive campaign to collect $2.9 million in taxes from owners of delinquent non-residential properties.

The message was simple: pay your taxes like everyone else or risk losing your property.

I am happy to report that this effort has been wildly successful.  We have collected 81 percent of the delinquent taxes we are owed. A total of 124 non-residential properties were identified by the county as owing taxes. Owners of all but 34 of those properties either paid their bill in full or entered into installment plans with the county to pay up.

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Total delinquent taxes when action started: $2,952,016
  • Total paid or in installment plans: $2,406,276 (81%)
  • Total being foreclosed: $378,756 (13%)
  • Not being foreclosed: $166,983 (6%)

No one likes to pay taxes – we know that.

But once again, this is a case where the same rule applies to everyone. If you own property, you have to pay your taxes. We have seen many cases where owners, particularly of commercial or vacant property, stopped paying taxes as they negotiated a sale, even if the sale took years to complete.

That is why we announced that we were going after these non-residential properties that hadn’t paid in two years, rather than the three-year cutoff the county had long abided by.

Rockland County relies on property tax revenue to fund public health programs, highway maintenance, fire and emergency response equipment and many other critical services residents and business owners depend on.

Tax revenue is Rockland’s largest source of income to fund these programs.

The county is responsible for collecting all unpaid taxes owed on a piece of property. That includes county taxes, school taxes, town and village taxes. These tax scofflaws are short-changing the towns and the schools as well.

Property owners who got accustomed to not paying were essentially getting a free ride on the backs of other taxpayers.

No more.

We never want to foreclose on anyone’s property. What we want are the taxes we’re owed.

Earlier this month, we filed foreclosure papers in state Supreme Court in Rockland on 29 commercial and vacant properties. Numerous attempts were made to reach out to the property owners to give them an opportunity to pay the bill or create an installment plan.

Five additional properties that owe taxes are not on the foreclosure list because they have environmental or other issues that could prove costly to taxpayers.

Once the judge signs the papers, the county will begin the process of taking possession of these properties. We will sell the foreclosed properties at auction and keep the proceeds.

It’s our hope that this action will speak louder than words. The message is: everyone has to pay their taxes.

No one has the right to raise your bill because they don’t pay theirs.

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