Towns want to get paid faster PDF Print E-mail
Written by LOHR McKINSTRY, Staff Writer   
Sunday, April 01, 2007

ELIZABETHTOWN — Towns with large chunks of state forestland want to get their state tax money faster.
The state now pays both its town and county property taxes to Essex County, and last year the county started releasing the towns' share on May 1.
It had been April 1, and it could change back or even go earlier if the Essex County Board of Supervisors gives its approval.
Reacting to requests from towns like Newcomb, North Hudson and Keene, the Board of Supervisors is authorizing the county treasurer to notify municipalities of the receipt of state-land tax checks and to issue checks to those towns that request it.
The issue started when the county began allowing installment payments for taxes, Supervisor George Canon (R-Newcomb) said.
"When the county went to the payment plan for taxes they extended the tax settlement date by one month. For the towns of North Hudson, Newcomb and Keene that extended the bulk of our budget closure by a month."
That meant the towns had to have a fund balance from the previous year to operate during the first three months, he said.
"The only way you can exist in these towns is to have a budget surplus, a fund balance."
The change is hurting his town, Canon said.
"The extension of that for an additional month is putting some strain on my town, at least, and I think we need to deal with that."
County Treasurer Michael Diskin said the system was set up that way because the towns collect county property taxes with their own and have been slow to send the county its share.
"Unfortunately, towns haven't been as willing to share their money with us after they have met their (tax collection) warrant. There are a few towns that do but the majority of them bring us large checks. We get probably $6 million to $7 million dollars in when we do our settlements.
"So it was kind of a trade-off — we didn't look to the towns to send us the money because we had their money."
But Newcomb, North Hudson and Keene have such large state land holdings that a large part of their tax base comes from the state paying its property taxes, Canon said.
"That extra month creates something of a bind, quite frankly. If we can work out something with those three towns where we settle as we always did on the first part of April, that would be wonderful."
Diskin said North Hudson, Wilmington and Minerva also have large amounts of state land and might want the same deal.
"If all 18 of us ask for our checks at the same time, he (the treasurer) may be in trouble for a short time," Supervisor Joyce Morency (R-St. Armand) said.
Diskin said it is a substantial sum.
"To send that money out — $4 million or $5 million dollars — that is a big hole. It certainly could be filled by those towns who are holding on to the county's money and making (interest) money on it."
Diskin said sending towns their state share will allow them to hold even more money that belongs to the county.
"The Town of North Elba brought us $3.31 million in May (last year), but I am sure that money was there a lot sooner than May. It didn't all get collected on April 30. There is money out there that belongs to the counties, by law, that nobody is sending us."
So, the county has approved a compromise to ask tax collectors to send county taxes collected to the county treasurer once a town tax warrant is met.
"As long as those towns start sending us money it is going to balance out," Diskin said.
The final vote is at 10 a.m. Monday in the Old County Courthouse at Elizabethtown.



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