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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo delays deadline for school tax payments in Nassau

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a press briefing

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at a press briefing on Friday. Credit: Getty Images/Matthew Cavanaugh

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has issued an executive order allowing Nassau County to delay until June 1 the May 11 deadline for property tax payments to school districts in the county.

Jason Conwall, a spokesman for Cuomo, said at Nassau County Executive Laura Curran's request, Cuomo "is issuing an executive order that will push back the property tax payment deadline for school districts in Nassau County."

Cuomo's Executive Order suspends or modifies the county's administrative code, to allow Curran to extend until June 1 the deadline to pay without interest or penalty the final half of school taxes in the county.

Earlier Monday, the Nassau County Legislature voted unanimously to extend until June 10 the deadline for filing property taxes without interest or penalties to help residents who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But County Executive Laura Curran said the legislature lacked that authority and called on Cuomo to extend the deadline until June 1. 

The issue is problematic for both Nassau and Suffolk counties.

Suffolk officials said an extension could force the county to borrow money to pay expenses.

Curran over the weekend warned that if there were a shortfall in tax collections, the county would have to make it up to school districts.

The measure passed by the Republican-controlled legislature would suspend interest charges and penalties for payment of second half school district taxes due May 11. Interest.

Curran, a Democrat, said county lawmakers lacked the the authority to push back the deadline and asked them not to pass the measure.

The legislature's bill would amend Nassau's administrative code, by removing penalties or interest on school taxes due in 2020 if property taxes are paid on or before June 10.

Property taxes account for 26 percent of the county's $3.11 billion budget, according to Curran.

"Thousands of residents are struggling with the financial crunch and having to make decisions on which bills to pay …," said legislative Presiding Officer Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park).

"Our tax receivers have been inundated with calls from both the business community and individual residents who are asking for some relief," Nicolello said.

The deadline for paying taxes this year is May 11. Property owners are charged interest if they file late, and penalties levied after May 31.

The county legislation "doesn't change the obligation to pay your taxes, which everyone must do," Nicolello said. The bill provides taxpayers, "an extra 30 days to pay without being hit with interest and penalties," he said.

In a letter to legislative leaders, Curran said enacting the measure "would confuse not only public officials such as town receivers (who are charged with collecting tax payments), but most importantly, taxpayers."

Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport), the legislative minority leader, told lawmakers he wanted to be sure that "the action that is taken today can actually be done. I don't want to present any level of false hope to residents." 

In explaining her opposition to the county legislation, Curran said if there is a shortfall in tax collections, the county by law has to make up the difference for school districts.

"Everything has a cost," she said during her COVID-19 briefing Saturday. "The county has a collection guarantee to the schools."

Suffolk County officials have said they cannot afford to delay property tax payments because of a state law governing the collection process.

Property owners in Suffolk pay their taxes through their town assessors. By law, towns and school districts first take their cut, and Suffolk gets its portion after that.

If the May 31 deadline for second-half tax payments were extended, Suffolk would have to borrow money to cover operations until receiving its revenue, incurring interest, officials said.

If its revenues were delayed, Suffolk also would not be able to pay back more than $400 million in short-term loans that are due this summer, officials said.

County Executive Steve Bellone said he had written to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin to request access to a Federal Reserve program that would relieve cash flow issues and allow for the tax deadline to be pushed back.

Cuomo's executive order also suspends or delays several other regulations in other parts of the state.

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