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Zero Tax Base Growth in Greenburgh

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — The Town of Greenburgh was one of the towns and cities of Westchester that had zero growth in its tax base for the fiscal year starting in 2012, according to data recently released by the state’s Department of Finance and Taxation.

The tax base growth factor reflects new developments in terms of properties and business. The other towns with zero growth cited in the report are Harrison, Peekskill and Mount Vernon.

The number becomes more relevant now that municipalities in the state have to comply with a 2 percent tax cap on the increase of their taxes, as pointed by an article published on Stargazette.com That’s because, in order not to penalize the municipalities that expand their tax bases, the law exempts new growth from the cap.

“There’s not a lot of empty space, and that’s slowing the development,” said Paul Feiner, Greenburgh town supervisor.

Even the Town of Ossining, which had a 1.05 percent growth, the highest in Westchester, didn’t experience any substantial development, said John McGrory, the town’s acting tax assessor.

McGrory attributed the town’s tax base growth to small extensions and a more accurate valuation of properties.

“It was a combination of many little things,” he said.

Lack of space for new development is, in fact, a characteristic of the entire county, when compared to other regions upstate and other states such as Texas, said Laurence Gottlieb, Westchester director of economic development.

Westchester as a whole had a tax base growth of 0.22 percent.

“Our numbers are pretty good given the economy decline and the size and density of our population,” he said.

But Gottlieb also pointed that in Westchester there is the need to look at towns individually, since each has the power to make decisions regarding development. He added that today most of them are suffering the consequences of being too restrictive in times of prosperity.

“There was so much wealth and so many opportunities out there, that people became very picky on what kind of businesses they wanted,” he said.

Development certainly has its problems. Greenburgh residents blame the frequent floods in Elmsford on the several commercial buildings erected during the past years along the Saw Mill River.

“Westchester has a wonderful quality of life and we need to maintain that,” Gottlieb said, while adding that, at the same time, towns need to become friendlier to business, if they want to see any growth.

Some are already changing their mentality toward development, Gottlieb said, giving the example of the Westchester’s Ridge Hill , an outdoor shopping complex in Yonkers, the city with the highest tax levy in the county, followed by Greenburgh.

"They almost built a mini-city in Yonkers," Gottlieb said. "New government leadership pushed the community in a different direction."

In the case of Greenburgh, the town is voting a modification on its zoning code that will allow a company to reactivate a closed gas station. That is the case of Cumberland Farms’ abandoned gas station on Central Park Avenue. The present code prohibits new stations, or the ones shut down for more than three years, to be established on the avenue.

“Once it happens, it will send a positive message that the town is more open to business,” Feiner said.

Despite the zero tax base growth, Feiner has announced that the town won’t try to override the 2 percent tax cap, as some other municipalities are considering.

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