Long Island Village of Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy said Tuesday he is rescinding a property tax hike he imposed earlier this year after persuading state lawmakers to ease the costly burden of New York’s controversial new pro-criminal defendant discovery law.
And he’s giving the money back to homeowners in the form of refund checks that will range from $250 to $11,000 depending on the property value and assessment. The checks will arrive in the next two week weeks, the mayor said.
“I am pleased to inform you that the Village of Freeport will be returning this money to you, the taxpayers. Every cent of it,” Kennedy said in a letter to constituents.
“I would like to thank each and every member of our community who helped advocate with their state officials to amend these laws.”
Kennedy said he was forced to impose a 5 percent increase in property taxes — an additional $2.7 million — on homeowners just to cover the costs to comply with the discovery law.
Kennedy complained Freeport had to hire more police officers and and pay more OT just to comply with the law’s requirement to more speedily turn over evidence to defendants.
Under the original law, local police and prosecutors were required to turn over all “discovery” or evidence to defendants charged with crimes or violations within 15 days of arraignment or indictment.
But Albany didn’t provide additional funding to comply with the law, he said.
“This was an unfair, unfunded mandate,” Kennedy said.
Under the revised law, the prosecution has 20 calendar days to perform its initial discovery obligations for a defendant in custody. If a defendant is not in custody, the deadline is 35 calendar days.
The mayor also said some minor infractions, such as building department summonses, are now exempt from the deadlines.
Kennedy, who served as president of the New York State Conference of Mayors, lobbied hard for Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature to fix the discovery law so as not to overburden local governments, law enforcement and the courts.
He’s said he’s thrilled to rescind the tax increase and return the money to property owners.
“Why keep the money? The people really need the money, especially because of COVID-19,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy plans on running for re-election to a third term next year.
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