Legislature to Propose Sellback Policy Change

By Lorne Fultonberg

Legislature to Propose Sellback Policy Change

January 28, 2013 Updated Jan 28, 2013 at 11:55 PM EDT

Binghamton -- The Broome County Legislature is taking steps to rescind a property tax policy it now says is wrong and misguided.

Legislative Chairman Jerry Marinich announced Monday residents on the verge of losing their home will be given more time.

He said the legislature will consider a proposal that allows homeowners to pay back overdue property taxes until a public auction.

The county's previous foreclosure rule -- adopted in 2010 -- required the homeowner to pay back taxes in full 120 days before auction.

"We are In the business of helping people keep their property. That's our goal, is to help people keep their property. And that's what I think we've done here today."

The about-face comes after a story by Action News that highlighted a local family's struggle to save their home, although they had the money several weeks before it was due for auction.

In that instance, Volodymyr Kurylo came up with more than $13,000 to cover back taxes, but he was turned away.

The new legislation rescinds the parts of the 2010 law that do away with any sort of "arbitrary timeline," Marinich said.

"It is very clear to us how wrong and misguided that policy was," he said. "Broome County should not be in the business of taking private property if it can be helped. We're here to correct that."

The bill will be considered Thursday during a special meeting of the County Legislature. If approved, those in foreclosure could get their homes back until the day it is auctioned.

"We are proposing to allow the Director of Property Taxes to do the job he was hired to do," Marinich said.

Under the proposed law, a home could be sold back if one of the following were true of the homeowner: Incompetence (such as dementia or other mental health issues), lack of proper notification by the county, catastrophic financial problems or catastrophic health issues.

For Kurylo, whose siblings both struggle with their health, the announcement was gratifying.

"My initial reaction is thank God that all our hard work, this Herculean effort to save our home, that that will remain in our hands," he said.

The bill would also increase the number of warnings and advisories homeowners would receive once they fall behind on their property taxes.

Thursday's legislative session begins at 5 p.m. downtown.