White Plains residents facing property tax hike

April 6, 2010 2:37:31 PM PDT
Some homeowners in Westchester County could be getting ready for a real tax shock. Officials in White Plains are considering raising property taxes a whopping 18 percent.

So what's behind the move, and how homeowners are reacting?

Economically, times are tough in White Plains. People are spending less, businesses are closing and people are losing their jobs. Now, homeowners face a proposed 18.9 percent property tax increase.

Officials admit that it is one of the steepest proposed increases in the last 20 years.

When they crunch their numbers for the average home valued at $728,000, homeowners could end up paying $445 more in property taxes. That brings the average tax bill up to $2,801.

"It's going to be a challenge to try to get another $440,000 or $1 million out of this budget," commissioner of finance Michael Genito said.

Homeowner Sandra Dee Adams believes the added tax would seriously crimp her budget.

"If your going to increase taxes over a period of time, it should be in increments, not so much of a hefty increase at one time," she said.

The city is also losing 48 jobs. Budget officials admit any more job cuts would come from all departments, including police and fire.

"Perhaps furloughs, givebacks from the employees, in terms of wages and salaries and benefits," Genito said.

Businesses throughout the city have closed too, and from existing businesses, there is a decline in sales tax revenue.

But, the city is proposing to boost the sales tax from 8 and a quarter percent to 8 and a half percent. If it gets state approval, it could generate $5 million to $6 million.

"The money would go into a tax stabilization fund, and that money would then be used sort of like a pressure-release valve in future years," Genito said.

The City Council now gets a crack at the budget to see if it can find additional ways to trim a tax increase many would struggle to afford.