MAYVILLE - The County Legislature on Wednesday passed a local law to provide tax exemptions for buyers of newly constructed or rehabbed properties in Chautauqua County.
The local law introduction, pushed by legislator George Borrello, R-Irving, is a five-year state-sponsored exemption program.
According to the state's real property tax law, a property owner can receive a 50 percent tax exemption based on valuation, with a 10 percent exemption decrease each year. The tax abatement can be granted on behalf of any county, city, town, village or school district with approval from the respected governing body.
Borrello said the law will allow reputable buyers to acquire rehabbed homes, limiting the possibility of "slum lords" who simply "throw a coat of paint on the walls and rent it out to the state government for a guaranteed payment every month."
"It will encourage people to buy those homes, rehab them and sell them to people that will have the opportunity to buy a home with the help of the first-time homebuyers (exemption)," he continued.
For a rehabbed property to be eligible for the tax exemption, at least $3,000 must be invested.
A public hearing, required by law, was held prior to the legislature's approval. Among those who spoke was Marilyn Kurzawa of the Chautauqua Area Habitat for Humanity.
"Our families work hard, they need one extra little break to get a good start as a homeowner," Kurzawa told lawmakers. "What we're appealing for is that one little extra break that would give them an abatement, not a total tax relief on taxes for the first five years."
Added Borrello: "We want to encourage people to buy homes, to invest in homes ... This is for all the right reasons."
The local law was not approved unanimously. Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown, questioned the amount of assets - beyond income - a homebuyer could have to obtain the tax exemption.
Steve Abdella, County Legislature attorney, said after reviewing the state law he believed assets would have no bearing on receiving the five-year exemption.
"I think the spirit of this ... is good. However, I do have some fundamental issues with this," Nazzaro said, noting someone could have hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank and still receive the tax break.
"It's only taking into account income. It's not taking into account assets," he said.
Also voting against the local law was Tom Erlandson, D-Frewsburg; John Runkle, R-Stockton; and Bob Scudder, R-Fredonia.