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Westchester County Executive Latimer Proposes Raising Sales Tax To Counter Property Tax Freeze

MAMARONECK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Westchester County Executive George Latimer says high property taxes have homeowners at their breaking point.

He wants to freeze the county portion for two years.

But there's a catch, and you'll feel it at the cash register, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported Thursday.

To show your esteem on Valentine's Day, House of Flowers in Mamaroneck has a stunning bouquet retailing for $125. This year, with sales tax, it's $134.22.

Next year, it could be $135.47.

"If we do not get additional steady forms of revenue outside of property tax revenue, this county government will go under and in due time so will the municipal governments," Latimer said.

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Westchester County Executive-Elect George Latimer
Westchester County Executive-elect George Latimer. (Credit: CBS2)

The Democrat said it's necessary to boost the sales tax to stave off a fiscal crisis.

Right now, the rate is 7.375 percent countywide, a point higher in Mount Vernon, New Rochelle and White Plains, and slightly higher still in Yonkers.

Latimer is proposing 8.375 percent countywide, with Yonkers keeping its higher rate.

He's got a bipartisan group supporting the move as a way to raise revenue without raising the county portion of the property tax bill.

"Any Republican out there I think that has a problem with this, if they want to give the money back and we'll split it up with the other communities, I'm okay with that," North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said to laughter.

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The county is calling this -- some might say spinning this -- as "sales tax parity." The proposed rate is the same as the current rate in neighboring Rockland County, and slightly lower than the current rates in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

While some residents will grumble, the county doesn't expect major opposition.

"As long as my property taxes aren't go up, I'm fine with it," resident Anna Rodriques said.

"I need to know what they're spending the money on," resident Mike Lurie added. "It's starting to get kind of high."

Latimer said the county will share the revenue with towns, villages and school districts. He hopes to have everything wrapped up in Albany in a few months.

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