LOWVILLE — Lewis County property owners will now have the opportunity to make installment payments on their town and county taxes.
The Board of Legislators voted unanimously to enact a new local law allowing two installments four months apart rather than having only the lump sum payment option that has been the case to this point.
The option to pay the town and county taxes in full by Jan. 31, the law notes, is still available, however, if a taxpayer can’t or doesn’t want to pay the full amount due, the first payment of about half of the total bill plus a 2 percent service charge will be due on Jan. 31, with the second half due on May 31 with no interest if paid on time.
The service charge collected will be revenue for the respective town as will any interest or penalties collected for late payments until June 1, after which they will go to the county.
“The intent of installment payments is to allow each town to opt into this local law... and thereby afford taxpayers the ability to pay their county and town property taxes timely and not fall into delinquency status,” Local Law No. 2-2019 reads.
Towns interested in opting in to the program for their taxpayers must approve a resolution stating their desire to participate, sending a certified copy to the county board.
Opting in to the installment program requires town tax collectors to use the county’s computerized billing and collection system, but that is not an “unfunded mandate.”.
The new law provides for the county paying all software and system costs for the towns that opt into the system for the first two years of their participation.
“And for such additional year(s) the county may, in its sole discretion, offer to pay on behalf of the town,” the law says.
Taxes paid through a “real property tax escrow account” are excluded from the installment option, the law says, even if the town where the property is located has opted for installments.
The county treasurer is empowered by the law to, in consultation with the county director of real property and the legislative board’s finance and rules committee, amend rules and regulations to ensure the success of the program and to perform annual reviews of the fees, costs and expenses involved and make recommendations to ensure that costs are covered.
Other north country counties, including Jefferson, St. Lawrence, and Franklin, have been offering installment payment options to towns in their jurisdictions for a number of years; however, not all towns participate. Many north country school districts also offer installment options.
The new Lewis County law is effective immediately.
Town boards have until Oct. 1, to send their approved resolutions to the county treasurer to ensure their taxpayers have the installment option with their January town and county tax bills.