Queens homeowners deserve a city tax rebate, says one lawmaker

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With the Great Recession now a bitter memory, some City Council members want the city to re-institute a tax break for homeowners that disappeared amid the financial turmoil.

Councilman Eric Ulrich was one of five legislators who signed a letter to City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito asking her to support legislation that would bring back a $400 property tax rebate to owners of one- to six-family dwellings across the five boroughs.

The state authorized the city in 2007 to issue the rebate to property owners, but the program was scrapped a year later as the city fell into a budget deficit amid the Great Recession.

Nearly a decade later, the city’s finances are in excellent shape, according to Ulrich and the other co-signers. They noted that the city is projected to have a $1 billion surplus in the current 2016 fiscal year; the city finished the previous 2015 fiscal year with a $3 billion surplus.

With the city’s economy in the black, the lawmakers wrote to Mark-Viverito, now is the time to give some of the extra money back to property owners who are facing higher costs of living.

“Many homeowners struggle to pay property taxes, along with the rising cost of utilities, groceries, gas and transportation,” they wrote. “Even a modest rebate check would provide them with some financial relief, and could be used to pay bills or go back into the local economy.”

Cautioning that “the economy is fickle” even with a projected surplus in the 2017 fiscal year, the lawmakers urged the city to reinstate the rebate at a time “when we are fortunate enough to be in a financial position to provide one.” They also supported efforts to set aside some of the surplus for a “rainy day fund” that could be tapped into when the city needs extra funds.

Ulrich signed the letter along with the other two Republicans in the Council: Minority Leader Steven Matteo and City Councilman Joseph Borelli of Brooklyn. Two other prominent Democrats in the Council — Deputy Leader James Vacca and Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Recovery and Resilience — also inked their names to the letter.

The letter comes as the city begins the process of creating a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, which begins on July 1. The de Blasio administration and City Council have until June 30 to agree to and enact a budget.

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