YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Would you pay property taxes if it weren’t the law?
As CBS2s’s Brian Conybeare reported, the City of Yonkers is considering sending voluntary tax bills to tax-exempt nonprofits. Local officials want to reduce the city’s annual budget shortfalls.
Local officials say there is almost always money trouble at Yonkers City Hall.
“Budgets are very, very difficult these days,” said Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano.
That is why Mayor Spano is pushing a proposal to send non-mandatory property tax bills to nonprofit institutions across the city.
“It’s a voluntary bill,” Spano said. “It’s going to be no more than 25 percent of what you would normally pay, and we’re saying help out.”
The city says one third of all properties in Yonkers, valued at $2.4 billion, are currently tax exempt.
If they were taxed like regular homes or businesses, they would pay $54 million a year under the new plan.
Taxpayers told CBS2 they liked the idea, but they do not think it will really work.
“We need help with the city, but I just don’t think people are going to fork over money just to help when they’re going want to use it for themselves,” said Yonkers taxpayer Christine Calvello.
“Nobody will volunteer to pay taxes — not an American citizen!” said Yonkers taxpayer Raymond Harrison.
Places like St. Joseph Seminary, owned by the New York Archdiocese, would be asked to pay $300,000 a year. St. John’s Riverside Hospital would get a voluntary bill for $1.4 million, and Sarah Lawrence College and its sprawling 40-acre campus $1.7 million.
No one from the New York Archdiocese or St. John’s Hospital would comment on the plan. But while he would not talk on camera, a vice president at Sarah Lawrence told CBS2’s Conybeare the college is open to discussing the concept with the city.
Sarah Lawrence is one of the most expensive liberal arts colleges in the nation, with annual tuition nearing $70,000. But Sarah Lawrence vice president Thomas Blum said, “Our greatest interest as a nonprofit that commits much of its resources to financial aid for students is that we avoid a situation that directly harms our educational mission and our students.”
“The value of that property is over half a billion dollars, and so we are still policing it we still pick up the trash we still provide services,” Spano said.
Yonkers has rising expenses and is trying to stay in the state’s 2 percent tax hike cap so taxpayer Raymond Harrison says why not try voluntary tax bills?
“They have no choice,” Harrison said. “They have to get it from somewhere and you can’t get it from my Social Security.”
The plan still has to be approved by the Yonkers City Council.
The city said if all the nonprofits in Yonkers paid full property taxes, it would total $216 million per year in revenue.