Without revealing the details, Westchester County Executive George Latimer on Wednesday announced that the 2020 county operating budget he is due to soon send to the Board of Legislators would contain a property tax cut.
“This is the first time in almost a decade that a county executive has proposed a budget that reduces the county property tax levy,” Latimer said. He said he would reveal the budget’s figures, including the size of the tax cut, at a Nov. 8 news conference.
In order to send a message that he is concerned about small businesses and families, Latimer made his announcement in the front yard of the Greenburgh home of small-business owners Monica and Matthew Marone on Mayfair Way near Grasslands Road. They operate Westchester Milk, which delivers milk, eggs, meat, preserves and other foods to homes throughout Westchester and Fairfield counties as well as in the Bronx.
“The degree of that cut is not yet finalized because we are looking at the expense size of the budget. We have a variety of cost factors that we’re trying to assess, how far we’re going to be able to fund those things, but we’re confident now above what I said previously that we would have a tax freeze. We will now be able to cut property tax levy in the budget that we submit,” Latimer said.
The budget will include setting aside $10 million to be added to the reserve fund, bringing it up to $79 million, he said. It also is due to eliminate so-called “one-shot deals” to meet expenses, with no borrowing to meet operating expenses.
“In the middle of last year, we had the reserves drawn down to a level of $64 million, which is about 3½% of our $1.9 billion budget and that’s well below the percentage we should be at,” Latimer said. He said in the current fiscal year they’ve managed to bring the reserve fund up to $69 million.
Latimer said that he expects the bond rating agencies will react favorably to the new budget, although he didn’t expect the county to be returned to a triple-A rating based on just one budget.
“If our bond rating goes up, the cost of borrowing becomes less expensive. We pay less interest if we have a higher bond rating,” he said. “What that means for the Marone family and every other family is less of their tax dollars is going for the interest on the borrowing.”
Latimer said that the county has to borrow to pay for its capital projects such as fixing roads, bridges and making improvements to the parks system and sewage treatment plants.
Latimer said that the county’s revenues have been helped by the recent increase county sales tax in some communities. Under the current budget, the sales tax and property taxes have been making approximately equal contributions, both in the range of $570 million. “Years ago, the property tax was far and away number one, sales tax was number two,” he said.
The Marones said, “Every dollar we save in taxes will be spent back in the community – this is a win-win for everyone.”