ROCKLAND COUNTY, N.Y. -- Rockland County, which has been aggressively collecting millions in back taxes, will start auctioning off 16 properties that are still in arrears Thursday, County Executive Ed Day’s office announced this week.
“I said we would take strong action including foreclosure to get the money that these property owners owe,” Day said. “I’m happy to report that the majority of property owners have paid up.”
Since beginning the push last spring, the county has raked in $2.65 million, or 95 percent of what was owed, from 124 delinquent property owners.
(Five properties were removed from the list due to environmental concerns.)
Day made the announcement while standing in front of 137 North Main St. in Spring Valley. The small building – with an outstanding bill of $37,196 -- tops the list non-residential tax “deadbeats,” he said.
It houses a cafe and small market.
The auction starts at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 19, in the county Legislature’s chambers, 11 New Hempstead Road, New City.
The county is not exactly rubbing its figurative hands with glee over the prospect of seizing property, Day said.
“Foreclosure was not what we wanted to do,” he explained. “We have no interest owning a grocery store or abandoned building.”
Rockland “made every effort to work with the owners and gave them plenty of notice,” the county chief said.
According to Day, some of them were paying up as late was Wednesday.
Those that could not come up with the money in one big chunk were given the option of using an installment plan.
The thing that started the big push was the Patrick Farm property in Ramapo where, Day said, the owners owed nearly $400,000 in back taxes.
Just days after the county announced that it was getting tough, the Patrick Farm folks paid up and the owner of a different property in Valley Cottage coughed up $80,000, Day said.
“We got their attention,” he said. “We will no longer allow owners of non-residential properties to go for years without paying their taxes.”
According to a report by lohud.com, a title insurance company that represented Scenic Development LLC dropped off a check for $385,426.57, money that was owed on three parcels off Route 306.
The Monsey-based developer, who owns a number of parcels on the same site, had recently won approval from the Ramapo Planning Board to build a 479-unit housing complex at Patrick Farm, the lohud.com story said.
Local environmentalists have been trying to block the project, arguing that there are wetlands on Patrick Farm that feed the Mahwah River, a drinking water source for Rockland and Bergen counties, and that a project that size would be out of place in that part of Ramapo, another lohud.com story said.
The county hopes to get at least $134,959 (the amount owed in back taxes) from the sale of the 16 properties.
Day pointed out that every time a property owner does not pay taxes, someone else has to foot the bill.
“We said we wanted the taxes that we are owed,” Day said. “As I’ve said before – the same rules apply to everyone.”
This is not a one-shot deal, the county executive vowed.
“We don’t want to take this action again, but rest assured that we will if we have to,” he said. “This is a promise we made to the taxpayers and a promise we have kept.”
By the numbers:
Total delinquent taxes when action started: $2,952,015.91 ($166,983 not considered for foreclosure due to environmental concerns)
Total delinquent taxes sought: $2,785,032.91
Total paid or in installment plans: $2,650,073.78 (95%)
Total being foreclosed: $134,959.13 (5%)