City leaders have announced an initiative to amend the City’s Tax Code to permit partial payments on real estate taxes. Councilmembers Natasha Cherry (D-6th Ward) and Yvonne Flowers (I-5th Ward), both members of the City’s Finance Committee and sponsors of the legislation, worked with Republican Mayor Rob Rolison and his Administration in a bipartisan effort to bring relief to city taxpayers during the COVID-19 crisis.
Under current law taxpayers must pay the full amount on or before February 15 unless they elect, for a fee, to pay in four quarterly installments. Taxpayers who fall behind on quarterly payments, or did not elect the quarterly option prior to February 15, must pay the entire amount due including a penalty. The bipartisan amendment to the local tax code would permit partial payments to be made in any amount at any time throughout the year. The current penalty schedule would be replaced with a simple-interest provision fixed at one percent per month, assessed on the declining balance.
Under the proposed changes to the local tax code, taxpayers who have elected the quarterly option, and who face their next payment on May 15, could defer all or some of that payment at a cost of 1 percent per month charged only on the amount of the quarterly payment deferred. For taxpayers who did not elect the quarterly option and make their first payment on-time by February 15, the current tax code provides no option other than payment in full, and partial payments are not accepted by the city’s tax collector. This amendment to the tax code, if passed by the full Council, would permit all partial payments to be accepted, whenever they are made throughout the year.
Councilmember Cherry said: “This is a vitally important, common sense piece of legislation that provides flexibility to city property owners. Flexibility allows individuals to make decisions that best help them navigate this crisis, because everyone’s situation is not the same. We ask our landlords to work with their tenants during this difficult time, and this less rigid tax collection process is going to help make it easier for them to do so.”
Councilmember Flowers said: “Every property owner in the City who pays under the current quarterly system has a payment due on May 15th. Left unchanged, everyone who misses that payment would be required to pay the full tax and penalty, and our tax collector would be required to return all partial payments. This legislation will not only help hundreds of Poughkeepsie’s property owners, but it will also help thousands of Poughkeepsie residents who live in rented properties because owners may find it easier to defer rent payments until our local economy is reopened.”
Mayor Rolison said: “This is a well-crafted amendment that balances the city’s financial condition with the need to provide flexibility to our taxpayers. Not only will this legislation help individuals, it will help local businesses, many of which also pay property taxes and have not received promised help under the Federal Paycheck Protection Program. The current ‘all-or-nothing’ approach to tax collection, which requires the City to send back partial payments, is at odds with important goals we share as a community: preserving homeownership and housing affordability. The new approach will also help our senior citizen property owners, who may find it easier to pay monthly rather than quarterly.”
The Council is expected take up the matter at its next virtual meeting on May 4.