Western New York’s devastating October 2006 snowstorm provided the impetus for legislation that was recently signed into law by Governor Eliot Spitzer. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and State Senator Mary Lou Rath introduced the measure to allow property owners additional time to pay property taxes during state disaster emergencies.
During the “October Surprise” storm, then-Governor George Pataki extended the deadline for paying property taxes without penalty or interest for property owners whose ability to comply was affected by the weather emergency. Under existing state law, he could only do so for up to seven days, however, and more than a week after the storm hit, many residents were still dealing with a lack of heat and electricity, flooded basements, downed trees and other damage. Some were still living out of their homes in temporary quarters.
Assemblyman Schimminger said, “When the October storm hit just a few days before school taxes were due, the timing highlighted the need for a change in state law to give a governor more flexibility in granting relief to taxpayers struggling with the effects of such a disaster. The last thing government should be doing is charging these property owners penalties and interest when a declared disaster emergency keeps them from getting in their taxes on time.”
“Keeping safe, dealing with the storm damage and getting power back were foremost on Western New Yorkers’ minds in the days following the disaster,” said Senator Rath, “yet state law maintained that taxpayers were still required to pay property taxes on time. In our case in Western New York, we needed an Executive Order to address the fact that many people couldn’t even leave their homes, much less go to the post office or the local clerk’s office. This bill would prevent this issue from occurring should a similar situation arise.”
Under the measure, Chapter 522 of the Laws of 2007, which became effective immediately upon the Governor’s signature, a governor can extend for up to 21 days the deadline for paying property taxes without penalty in disaster situations where such an extension is requested by the local government.