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Long IslandNassau

Hempstead, Oyster Bay want state to pay for tax office overtime, officials says

Towns keeping tax receivers’ offices open later and into the holiday weekend are looking for ways to offset extra payments for staffers.

People line-up at the Town of Hempstead tax

People line-up at the Town of Hempstead tax receiver's office to pay their real estate taxes before the end of the year, hoping for one last chance to take advantage of a major tax deduction before it is wiped out in the new year in this Dec. 26, 2017 photo. Credit: Howard Schnapp

At least two of Nassau County’s three towns plan to ask the state to reimburse its overtime costs associated with the last-minute rush of property owners looking to prepay their 2018 taxes, the tax receivers for Hempstead and Oyster Bay said Thursday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order last Friday that would allow New Yorkers to prepay their 2017-2018 second-half school and 2018 general taxes so they could potentially take advantage of 2017 deductions under the new federal tax code. That led to crowds across Long Island trying to pay those taxes before the end of the year and receivers’ offices staying open later and into the New Year’s holiday weekend.

Municipal governments will need to make up for the overtime created this week as staff members struggle to keep up with the influx of taxpayers, especially in Nassau County where prepayment wasn’t allowed.

Hempstead Town, like others on Long Island, has extended its tax receiver’s office’s weekday hours and will be open Saturday and Sunday, when the office normally is closed.

“Why should town residents be stuck with this overtime bill?” said Donald Clavin, Hempstead town tax receiver, noting that 1,600 residents had visited his office on Tuesday and more than 2,000 on Wednesday. “We don’t want that passed on to the residents. We want to be reimbursed.”

Representatives of Cuomo’s office did not respond to a phone call seeking comment about overtime reimbursement.

Clavin said he could not estimate the town’s overtime costs yet.

Charles Berman, North Hempstead’s tax receiver, said the town would likely follow Hempstead’s lead in seeking reimbursement of the staff overtime costs for keeping its office open additional hours, but no official decisions have been made yet.

Oyster Bay also plans to seek reimbursement from the state for its overtime costs, town Receiver of Taxes James Stefanich said. He was not able to estimate any overtime costs yet.

“This is an unfunded mandate,” he said. “Work that’s normally done over a year, we’re doing it in five days.”

In Suffolk County, where property owners have previously been able to prepay their taxes, the impact on tax receivers’ offices has been less than in Nassau.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone offered Wednesday to provide additional clerks to town tax receivers’ offices. The county had two employees — one from fire rescue and emergency services, the other from the department of economic development and planning — assist the Southampton Town tax receiver’s office.

“They’re assisting in handling an office backlog, for however long they’re needed,” Bellone spokesman Jason Elan said.

Brookhaven workers will receive up to eight hours overtime for working the extended hours Friday afternoon and Saturday morning, town spokesman Kevin Molloy said. About 25 town employees are working at Town Hall tax payment windows, although not all of them will work all eight overtime hours, he said.

He said the town budget has sufficient funds to pay the overtime.

Riverhead Town will offer comp time to workers logging extra hours this week because the town budget has no allocation for overtime for the tax receiver’s department, said Laurie Zaneski, the town’s receiver of taxes. Still, her staff of three has been working extra to meet the demand, she said.

“They actually beat me to work today,” Zaneski said.

Babylon Town will have 10 full-time staff, and five part-time workers in the tax receiver’s office Friday along with eight support staff members working on what’s normally a holiday with town offices closed, town spokesman Kevin Bonner said. The 23 workers will be a paid at 2 1⁄2 times their regular pay for the extra day, he said.

East Hampton and Southold towns are not anticipating overtime costs related to the tax prepayments.

With Carl MacGowan and Jesse Coburn

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