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Release Date: November 17, 2007

During the past year taxes at every level of government has gone up. The County Executive just announced a tax hike. Town taxes are going up alot this year, village school & fire districts have also been increasing taxes annually. These tax hikes are forcing people to vote with their feet --they are moving out of Westchester.
I suggest that the NYS Legislature authorize local governments, school districts to provide residents with the opportunity to work off part of their property taxes.
In Boston there is a program called the Senior Citizen Property Tax Work Off program. Seniors are able to reduce their taxes by up to $750 in property tax relief in exchange for volunteer service to the community. This is helpful to seniors who are house rich and cash poor. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino said. Seniors benefit by a reduction in their annual tax payment. The city benefits by the help of experienced volunteers.
Property taxes are a major problem for senior citizens. This concept also helps seniors who don't meet requirements for existing elder property tax exemptions. Departments (such as the library) with a need for additional volunteers would be able to benefit from program. Retirees could teach classes at schools.
Boston is not the only Massachusetts community that has this program. Townsend lets its qualifying seniors earn $500, while Newton seniors can erase up to $750.
Other major cities have sponsored similar programs in the past.
In 1976, Hartford enacted a property tax work-off measure that extended beyond senior citizens. In Connecticut's capital, any resident who was unemployed or with a property tax bill greater than 10 percent of their annual income could work off up to the entire property tax burden, according to a 1981 report in The New York Times.
While the Hartford program did not set age requirements, within five years, 70 percent of participants were age 50 or older. When I was a student in the late 1970s I urged the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees to adopt such a program. The Scarsdale Village Board approved the plan but the NY State Legislature never authorized such a program.
I will be organizing a county-wide lobbying effort so that this program can be offered to residents at the county, municipal and school levels. If you are interested in being part of a lobbying initiative, please contact me at pfeiner@greenburghny.com

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