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Tax Receivers Warn of Late Tax Bills, Possible Penalties

By Mark Scott

Buffalo, NY – Tax receivers in Erie County towns are warning residents that their county tax bills will be late this year. But unless there's a change in the law, taxpayers would still be liable for any late payment penalties.

Tax receivers from Cheektowaga, Amherst and Orchard Park gathered at Cheektowaga Town Hall Tuesday to voice their concerns. Cheektowaga's tax receiver, Bill Rogowski, says it's the worst mess he's seen in his 39 years of public service.

Rogowski and his fellow tax receivers called on county and state legislators to extend the due date from February 15th to March 15th. He says anything less would be unfair to taxpayers.

"I don't think the taxpayers of Erie County should be subject to penalties and interest," Rogowski said. "It's not their fault that the bills may arrive late."

Amherst Town Clerk and Tax Receiver Susan Jaros admits extending the deadline by a month would have an impact on cash flow for both the county and its towns.

"We all have some sort of a cushion to work with," Jaros said. "But we invest all that money we collect, so it will have an effect. Some towns have to use that money for payroll."

Wednesday morning, State Supreme Court Justice John Lane will hear more arguments on the legality of the 2005 county budget. County Legislature Majority Leader Lynn Marinelli says Justice Lane needs to rule before lawmakers respond to the tax receivers' concerns.

"It would be hard to start doing any new procedure until we know how the judge is going to rule," Marinelli said. "We will honor and respect whatever comes out of that court decision."

Still, Marinelli said she can't imagine any scenario that would see residents penalized for late payments on tax bills that did not arrive on time.