BOE EXPRESSES UNCERTAINTY REGARDING POTENTIAL TAX SHIFT FROM DECOMMISSIONING OF GLENWOOD LANDING POWER PLANT
January 20, 2014 -- Despite receiving “oral assurances” from county officials in the Assessor’s and Executive’s Office that the decommissioning of the Glenwood Power Plant would not result in an enormous tax shift to homeowners and businesses for the 2014-15 school tax levy, School Board President Herman Berliner expressed "nervousness" at Thursday’s Board of Education meeting, that without a written assurance, the worst case scenario of a 15-19% spike in school taxes was still a possibility for next school year. The concerns dominated the comments following the initial draft budget presentation given by Schools Superintendent Dr. Edward Melnick and came up in questioning from the audience.
It was a departure from the confidence expressed in the Superintendent’s Report at the November 21st meeting in which Dr. Melnick said that it appeared that a section of real property law protected homeowners from a dramatic single year tax shift from one property class to another.
At that meeting, the Superintendent stated that based on conversations with the Nassau County Assessor’s office back in June, the shift in tax burden from one tax class to another tax class cannot exceed 1% per year. Dr. Melnick reported that Sea Cliff Mayor Bruce Kennedy had received similar information in his conversations with the County Assessor’s office.
In an interview with Northwordnews on November 22, Mr. Kennedy explained that under a bill that was sponsored by State Senator Jack Martins (R-Mineola) and signed into law on June 30th, a reduction in assessed value in one property tax class cannot result in more than a 1% increase in the proportion of taxes paid by another class. There are four tax classes in Nassau County – Residential, Co-ops and Condos, Commercial, and Utilities. In the past, Mr. Kennedy explained, the law was that there could not be more than a 5% increase, but for the last several years, that number has been reduced to 1% by legislation that has been renewed annually, as it was this past June for 2014-15. If the legislation is not renewed, the maximum shift would return to 5%.
Mr. Kennedy said that he has been familiar with the law (real property law 1803) through his work as Mayor of Sea Cliff (which has only two classes for village taxes), and that during a lobbying trip with district representatives to Albany late last winter he had raised the issue. In addition, he explained that he, the Village Attorney, Village Treasurer, and County Legislator Delia Deriggi-Whitten had met with the County Assessor’s office earlier in the fall, and it was confirmed that the increase for an individual tax class could not be greater than 1% for 2014/15.
In an interview with Northwordnews on January 20th, Mr. Kennedy explained that he had sent a follow-up e-mail to Deputy County Assessor Steven L. Corte, explicitly asking if his understanding that there would not be more than a 1% shift to homeowners in the school tax levy was correct. Mr. Corte replied by e-mail that the Mayor’s understanding was correct, and additionally, community block grants from the state would make up for any “shortfall” resulting from the 1% shift. The block grants appear to refer to the $2.5 million the School District has received as a result of the efforts of State Senator Carl Marcellino and Assemblyman Charles Lavine this past spring to mitigate the impact of a tax spike on homeowners resulting from the de-commissioning of the power plant. Addressing the reduction in the assessed value of National Grid’s Glenwood Property, Mr. Kennedy said the tax obligation was shifted to other properties within the utility tax class - essentially to itself.
A press release issued by Ms. Deriggi-Whitten on December 19th, supports Mr. Kennedy’s understanding of the issue.
At a School Board Meeting / Town Meeting held at the High School this past October 24th, Ms. Carrie Anne Tondo, the North School Board Counsel explained that in evaluating the LIPA proposal from this past June that would result in a 15-19% property tax shift, attorneys were examining real property law 1803, which she explained could offer protection to homeowners from a large one year tax spike, by limiting to 1% the shift from one property class to another.
Without its own written confirmation from the County regarding the power plant tax shift, there seemed to be general agreement among the School Board and Superintendent this past Thursday evening to follow a "hope for the best but prepare for the worst" approach - that in addition to preparing a budget with a 2.3% spending increase that would be at the district’s tax levy limit, Dr. Melnick would also prepare and present a contingency budget with a zero percent aggregate tax levy increase. Also, with perhaps less agreement among Board members, the district may also provide information illustrating the sort of savings for individual homeowners that would be realized with the adoption of a contingency budget. Showing the alternate budget proposal, which automatically goes into effect should a proposed budget fail twice, would allow residents in the district, should the worst case scenario become reality over the next three months, or if information concerning the tax shift is not available by the budget vote on May 20, to weigh the impact of a “no” vote on both the schools and their wallets.
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LIPA DEAL'S IMPACT ON NSSD UNCLEAR AS SEN. MARCELLINO AND BOE PRES. OFFER DIFFERING VIEWS OF '14-'15 TAX SHIFT (Published June 28, 2013)
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