Bills offer flood victims tax breaks

Following a string of devastating storms, state legislators have introduced bills designed to provid

Following a string of devastating storms, state legislators have introduced bills designed to provide relief through tax rebates, installment payments of school taxes and new property assessments.

The tax rebate would apply to individuals and businesses who live in disaster areas and would apply to the state’s portion of the sales tax on items and services purchased to rebuild. The installment plan would allow school districts greater flexibility in collecting taxes, so that they could collect revenue over a longer period of time and even offer temporary refunds. The new property assessments would be geared toward land owners whose properties lost 50 percent of the value that had been assessed for 2012.

Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who sponsors one of the bills and is a co-sponsor on the others, characterized the legislation as targeted measures that could provide meaningful help.

Regarding the assessment legislation, which would go into effect with the approval of individual counties and administered by local assessing body, Farley said it has precedent and could be retroactively implemented if it were passed in the 2012 session. “If it’s done in January … it’s effective enough,” he said, acknowledging the miniscule probability that the Legislature will return before then.

As for whether counties will seize this opportunity, he said they probably will, but understood that some might not be in a financially stable position to diminish their tax base. “We don’t want to micromanage a county’s business,” Farley said.

Schenectady’s acting Mayor Gary McCarthy said he liked the proposal on the grounds that it would provide equity for property owners. He also noted that some localities couldn’t afford to lose revenue through this plan, but stressed that the city could adapt to lost revenue.

Schenectady County spokesman Joe McQueen said the county Legislature will be studying this proposal and any others that might help ease the burden of residents. “Schenectady county will support any legislation that will provide relief to any catastrophically impacted properties,” he said.

Included in the legislation is a protection of state aid, as it guarantees that districts will not lose any of the funding that is based on local property tax assessments.

tax installments

The second major proposal would allow school districts, without approval from a local municipality, to collect taxes on an installment plan of their liking and to temporarily refund paid taxes, so that people in immediate need would have cash-on-hand and then could pay their school taxes over time.

Bob Hanlon, spokesman for the Scotia-Glenville Central School District, said that his district probably wouldn’t need this help now, but acknowledged that the local autonomy it gave was important. “I think any flexibility on any mandates is always welcome by school districts.”

In the Greater Amsterdam School District this plan wouldn’t even be needed, because they already receive their revenue in four installments. But District Superintendent Thomas Perillo said that this practice was probably responsible for a lack of issues with payment in the district.

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, who sponsors the tax rebate, characterized his plan as one facet of the large spectrum of financial assistance people will need to get on with their lives. He argued that the rebate, which could be claimed on 2011 or 2012 income taxes, was also the right thing for the state to do.

“Why should the state of New York get a windfall of finances … because its citizens got hit by a tropical storm?” he said. His stressed that the state hadn’t planned on getting this revenue, which only came about because some people were purchasing things like furnaces, sump pumps and construction materials as a response to damage from the weather.

Tedisco said they will be amending his bill to include a clause for counties that also want to refund their portion of the sales tax on items people purchased because of the storms.

A spokesman for the Senate majority leader said the Republicans are likely to review all three bills in the next session and do whatever they can to address issues stemming from recent storms. The governor’s office and a spokesman for the Assembly majority did not respond to inquiries.

The tax rebate legislation is Senate Bill 5893 and Assembly Bill 8643, the new assessment legislation is Senate Bill 5891 and the school tax installment plan is Senate Bill 5892. Similar new assessment legislation is likely to be introduced in the Assembly in the near future.

Categories: Business, Schenectady County

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