Volume 3 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 112
Taxes (collection - installment) (consolidation of county, town, and school district taxes and special district levies) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 972, 1336:
Pursuant to Title 4-A of Article 9 of the Real Property Tax Law, counties, towns and school districts by coordination may establish a system for collecting, by installments, county, town and school district taxes, and special district levies whereby the county becomes the tax collection agency after the first installment is paid to the town or school district.
We have received an inquiry regarding the possibility of consolidating the collection of county, town and school district taxes.
Title 4-A of Article 9 of the Real Property Tax Law, which provides for the installment collection of real property taxes, was added by Chapter 953 of the Laws of 1962. The enactment authorizes counties, towns and school districts by coordination to establish a system for collecting in installments county, town and school district taxes, and special district levies.
This installment program would be initiated by the county through the adoption of a local law by the board of supervisors, making the county the tax collection agency for purposes of this title (Real Property Tax Law, § 972) at the option of the towns and school districts.
The number of installments and their respective due dates are determined by the county in the local law adopting the program (§ 972(2)). The county imposes a service charge (§ 972(3)) which is added to the bills of the taxpayers who have elected to pay in installments. This service charge is designed to cover the cost of administering the collection of taxes under the installment program and the cost of financing advances to towns, school districts and other districts of unpaid installment taxes, so that the complete expense, incurred as a result of such installment program, is borne by the persons who elect to pay their taxes in installments, rather than by the county.
Upon the enactment of the local law by the county, the town board of any town (§ 973(1)) and the school authorities of any school district (§ 1336(1)), other than a city school district (governed by § 1326), is authorized to adopt a resolution providing for the payment of their respective taxes, which are in excess of $50, in installments, in the manner provided in the local law enacted by the county. After the adoption of such a resolution by a town or school district, a taxpayer in such town or school district would have the option of paying the taxes either under the new installment program or in full on the due dates provided by existing law (§§ 975 and 1340(1)).
However, it should be noted that this statute contemplates that the collecting officers in towns (§ 975(2)) and school districts (§ 1340(2)) will collect the “first installment” of such taxes; payments thereafter are made to the county treasurer on or before the date specified by the local law enacted by the county. Thus, even under this statute, there would not be a complete consolidation of the tax collection system.
In towns which adopt the installment program, the collecting officer of the town is required to file with the county, by the first day of February, a separate report, known as a “return” of the town taxes and special district levies which taxpayers have elected to pay in installments ( § 976(1)). Within ten days after this “installment return”, the county treasurer must pay to the town, the total amount of taxes set forth in the “installment return”. Thus, when a town adopts the installment program, it does not have to wait for the taxpayers to make their installment payments, but rather it receives an advance from the county. With respect to those owners not electing to pay in installments, the collector would file with the county his regular return of delinquent taxes and special district levies in the manner provided by existing law, at which time the amount of these delinquent charges would be advanced by the county.
In school districts which adopt the installment program, the return of unpaid taxes would be in the manner provided by existing law and within ten days after such return, the county treasurer would advance to the school district the amount of taxes which taxpayers have elected to pay in installments (§ 1342) and advance to the school district the unpaid delinquent taxes of those not electing to pay in installments in the manner and at the time provided in existing law.
To our knowledge this method of collection by installments is not in use in any of the towns in this State. We therefore have no information in regard to procedures which facilitate this process or in regard to difficulties which might be encountered in its use.
Aside from the method described above, there is no provision in the Real Property Tax Law for the consolidation of the collection of real property taxes from among a county, and the towns and school districts therein.
June 28, 1974