Volume 7 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 99
Taxes (collection) (relevy - time of) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 900, 1330:
Since section 1330 does not specifically require a county treasurer to accept payment of returned school taxes through December 31. a resolution of the county legislative body (rather than administrative action by the county treasurer) declaring the “relevy” of these taxes as of a date certain would be a reasonable application of the intent of the law.
We have been asked to consider the law applicable to payment of school taxes to a county treasurer. More specifically, of concern is the period between the return of unpaid school taxes to the county treasurer (Real Property Tax Law, § 1330(2)) and the time of the “relevy” of those taxes by the county legislature (§ 1330(5)), a period during which property owners may remit their unpaid school taxes to the county treasurer (§ 1330(6)).
At the expiration of the warrant for the collection of school taxes, the school collecting officer must prepare a list of unpaid taxes for delivery to the appropriate school authorities (§ 1330(1)). Those school authorities must compare the list with the original school tax roll and, if they find the list to be correct, they must certify a statement to that effect and transmit it to the treasurer of the county, no later than the 15th day of November (§ 1330(2)). Subdivision 6 of section 1330 of the Real Property Tax Law then permits “any person whose real property is included in any such statement” to pay the amount of taxes “at any time before the board of supervisors shall have directed the same to be relevied”.
It has been suggested that some property owners are postponing their payment of school taxes until December 31, contending that the time of the “relevy” referred to in section 1330(6) coincides with the last date for the annual county tax levy (§ 900(1)). This creates obvious problems in terms of the county levy, since the tax roll and tax bills are prepared several weeks prior to December 31. The chief fiscal officer of the county has asked whether he has the right to establish a “cutoff date” for the payment of these delinquent school taxes.
It is our opinion that section 1330 does not require the county to accept receipt of unpaid school taxes through December 31. Subdivision 6 of that section permits payment only until the taxes have been “directed to be relevied”. We are aware of the practice in many counties of the county legislature adopting a resolution, shortly after the return of unpaid school taxes, declaring that as of a date certain, school taxes shall be “relevied”. In a few counties, the county legislature has gone so far as to declare school taxes to be relevied immediately upon the return of the statement from the school authorities to the county treasurer.
While we are of the opinion that the latter type of resolution is not in keeping with the spirit of section 1330, we certainly believe that a reasonable interpretation of the law is that once the county tax rates have been struck for the coming year, and tax rolls and tax bills prepared, the school taxes should be considered “relevied” within the meaning of section 1330(6), and no further payment should be accepted by the county treasurer. Any other interpretation would create continuing confusion for both the county treasurer and the local collecting officer.
However, we believe the so-called cut-off date must be established by act of the county legislature, as section 1330(6) refers to that body as “directing . . . the relevy”, and not by an administrative fiat of the county treasurer.
December 28, 1981