Despite already being one of the more heavily taxed counties in the country, Westchester homeowners and shoppers may soon see a hike in sales tax.
Westchester officials are reportedly hopeful that the state will approve an increase in local sales tax which could help steady the county’s finances. However, according to a lohud report , no formal request has been made, and it is unclear how much taxes may be increased.
The report states that Westchester County Executive George Latimer plans to first reach out to area business owners before he makes his formal cause to New York State officials.
The average Westchester homeowner paid nearly $20,000 in property taxes last year, with a sales tax rate of 3.375 percent, which is a lower rate than surrounding counties and lower than the county’s four largest cities.
In recent years, Westchester has found itself facing millions of dollars in deficits and the county has seen its reserves dwindle, leading to a downgrade of their credit rating. Westchester’s financial report card saw its credit rating cut one level by two prominent agencies.
Westchester County was notified by S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings that the county’s financial outlook has been downgraded to AA+. Moody’s also assigned Aa1 to Westchester. The county has lost its AAA rating – the highest ranking available – in each of the Big 3 rating agencies.
Late last year, lawmakers approved the $1.9 billion budget, with the measure quickly signed off by Latimer. The budget was approved by a 13-4 vote, with the support of county Democrats. The budget contains a 2 percent property tax hike.
Officials said that the tax rate increase is to help offset tens of millions of dollars in deficits that the county is currently operating against. There are no planned cuts to staff or service in the approved budget, which is contingent on the county selling several parking lots that surround the County Center in White Plains. The sale of the lots is expected to net more than $20 million.
The tax levy increase is the first since Latimer took over as county exec last year. The county could have raised taxes by as much as 4.5 percent, but was able to curtail that number with certain allowances. The county was operating at a $32 million deficit to end 2017 year, which only ballooned in 2018.