HAWTHORNE, NJ - When the Hawthorne Council met on Monday, via virtual conferencing, they did so to pass R 56-20 "Reduce Delinquent Tax Rate".  Mayor Richard Goldberg had announced this to the borough as a means of providing some relief to residents who had yet to pay their taxes.  R 56-20 passed and brought the delinquent tax interest rate to 0% effectively to the end of June.  Then, according to Council President Frank Matthews, Governor Phil Murphy's executive order invalidated it and reduced that period by a month.

"We tried to give our residents some extra time at no penalty to pay their taxes but the governor won't allow us to do it," Matthews told TAPinto Hawthorne.  "We were told we will make those towns that are not in as good a financial position, and can not do the same, look bad by doing what we wanted to do."

He said that the "last minute executive order" issued by Governor Murphy, which added a property tax extension of 20 days to the grace period, had undone the borough's efforts.  By law, municipalities cannot change the May 1 due date, but they can enact a grace period of ten days.  The executive order would extend that throughout May with a further 20 days.  But that was short of the two-month window that the borough of Hawthorne passed Monday.

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The governor's executive order, signed on April 28, can be found here.  The language affecting the borough's special meeting is as follows:

1. Any governing body of a municipality with a calendar year budget cycle may adopt a resolution instituting a grace period concluding on a date no later than June 1, 2020 for the payment of second-quarter property taxes.

2. Any governing body of a municipality with a State Fiscal Year budget cycle may adopt a resolution instituting a grace period concluding on a date no later than June 1, 2020 for the payment of fourth-quarter property taxes. If a municipality with a State Fiscal Year budget cycle institutes an extended grace period pursuant to this Order, the municipality shall not conduct an accelerated tax sale with respect to the installment for payment of fourth-quarter property taxes.

3. The municipal clerk shall notify the Director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs of any resolution instituting an extended grace period adopted under authority of this Order not later than the third business day next following the municipal governing body’s adoption of the resolution.

4. No municipality, county, or any other agency or political subdivision of this State shall enact or enforce any order, rule, regulation, ordinance, or resolution that will or might in any way conflict with any of the provisions of this Order, or that will in any way interfere with or impede its achievement, which shall include, but not be limited to, any attempt to provide an additional extension of the installment date or grace period for the payment of property taxes, and any attempt to otherwise temporarily fix, reduce, or retroactively modify the rate of interest charged for failure to make timely payment to achieve this effect.

"He voided our 60-day 0% interest on any late payments that we passed at our Special Council Meeting on Monday night to provide our residents with some potential relief options," Matthews said.  "He said 'no' when we asked to extend the grace period but got mad when several municipalities found a solution to go around his denial. Such a petty move and it only hurts those who need the help the most. Sorry, Hawthorne, your representatives tried to do the right thing, if only your state leaders could do the same."

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