Essex County reneges on tax payment plan

ELIZABETHTOWN - Essex County treasurer Michael Diskin claimed responsibility for the apparent failure of a plan to extend the optional property tax installment plan in 2009.

Diskin spoke at the Essex County Board of Supervisors meeting Nov. 3, explaining that limitations of software used at the state level would not accommodate the county's recently established plan to allow property tax payments to be spread out over a five month period.

The software, used by the Real Property Tax Office for tax billing, is capable of denoting payments over the four month period currently allowed by the county, Diskin explained, but it cannot be adjusted to include a fifth month in the billing.

As a result, the county will likely postpone its plans to extend the payment plan until after the state agency installs a newer version of the software.

Championed by Moriah town supervisor Tom Scozzafava as a way to relieve the wintertime burden of taxes on local families, a resolution to extend county property tax installment payments from four months to five was adopted at the board's Sept. 2 regular meeting.

The plan would have allowed taxpayers in 2009 to make an initial payment in January and delay remaining payments with interest until as late as May 31, instead of the current April 30 deadline.

Diskin said the state is looking at new software, but it would not come soon enough to deal with the change in policy. Though there are other billing services available, they would likely be more expensive and unable to provide the service on such short notice.

"I apologize for the lateness of it," said Diskin. "I will accept blame entirely for it."

Schroon Lake supervisor and board chair Cathy Moses pointed out that many towns had already worked five months of tax collection into their budgets.

"We passed a resolution to do this without knowing all these problems, and many people in Essex County think they have five months to pay their taxes," said St. Armand supervisor Joyce Morency. "You may take the blame for this, but there's eighteen people sitting here who are going to get bashed for this."

The board voted to rescind the September resolution, meaning the extra month of installment payments will have to wait until at least 2010. Diskin assured the board that new software would likely be in place by then.

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