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Tax rebate, oh really? - Gentile challenges Mayor’s giveback to homeowners

The property tax cut touted by the mayor in his recent “State of the City” address doesn’t do nearly enough for area homeowners, according to one local councilmember. In contrast to the across the board one-year five percent real estate tax cut proposed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, on top of a $400 tax rebate sent to homeowners by the city, City Councilmember Vincent Gentile is suggesting considerably more expansive property tax relief: Bloomberg’s five percent tax cut plus a rebate that amounts to approximately $1,200 per homeowner. This rebate, said Gentile, would apply to all Class 1 and Class 2 property owners – specifically, those people owning one, two and three-family homes, condominiums and co-ops, who are, said Gentile, “The people who need it most. “What the mayor wants to do will basically have no impact on the homeowner,” Gentile contended. This, he said, is because real estate taxes paid by the homeowner go up every year as a result of increased assessments, as property values across the city continue to rise. “Assessments are going through the roof, pun intended,” remarked Gentile. Given that, he stressed that Bloomberg’s, “Five percent tax cut amounts, in terms of dollars, to the increased payment people will be required to make because of the increased assessment, so what he’s giving back to New Yorkers is what he’s about to collect from New Yorkers, this month.” Gentile says that the city can pay for the increased rebate simply by using $750 million billion out of $1.5 billion that the mayor’s fiscal year 2008 budget had appropriated to the Retiree Health Benefits Trust Fund. The fund, which is a lock box (meaning that what is put in cannot be taken out for other purposes) already has $2 billion in it, said Gentile, enough to cover the projected $1.5 billion in retiree health costs for FY 2008. “We can pay for it (the increased rebate) in a way that doesn’t affect any other bottom line,” emphasized Gentile, who added, “It’s irresponsible to put it into an irrevocable trust fund for retirees’ benefits when we already have enough money for that.” There was one part of the mayor’s tax relief proposal for which Gentile had nothing but kudos. Besides proposing a one-year five percent reduction in city real estate taxes, Bloomberg has proposed a range of other tax cuts, including ending the city sales tax on clothing and footwear. “I think that’s a good idea,” remarked Gentile, who had pushed to end the sales tax on apparel while he was in the State Senate. “I give him five stars for that one. It would be helpful to New Yorkers, but as far as property tax relief goes, he needs to step up to the plate, and try again.”

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