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Tax payment plan opposed by SanFilippo

Buffalo Comptroller Andrew A. SanFilippo on Monday opposed a proposed City Charter revision that would allow homeowners to make partial payments for property taxes.

During a special meeting of the Common Council's Legislation Committee to review the issue, SanFilippo argued that such a plan would have a serious negative impact on the city's cash flow and could result in the city's having to borrow more money than it otherwise would need to.

"The city would have to borrow more money because we wouldn't have the security of having that tax revenue in place," he told the committee.

Currently, homeowners pay annual property tax installments in July and December, as permitted by the charter.

However, if a taxpayer pays less than the amount due, the city holds the check and sends a letter to the property owner stating the city is holding the check and asking that the additional amount be paid by a certain date, explained Assessment and Taxation Commissioner Bruna Michaux.

"If the taxpayer fails to do that, then and only then do we return the check to the property owner," Michaux said.

Changing the ordinance to allow a person to pay less than they have to would require a revision to the charter, something proponents of the plan said would make it easier for cash-strapped homeowners to pay their tax bills and avoid foreclosures.

A task force created this spring by Mayor Anthony M. Masiello to address housing problems recommended an amendment to the tax law to allow for partial payments. A second change would make it easier for homeowners to pay delinquent taxes by extending thetimeline for repayment plans from 12 months to 24 months.

The advisory group believes the new policies would help curb "flipping," the practice of buying inexpensive homes at foreclosure sales, then quickly reselling them at inflated prices without making improvements. But Michaux has said she doubts the new policy would have any noticeable impact on curbing unethical real estate practices.

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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