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UPDATE: Nanuet Schools Opposes Clarkstown Charging Schools for Tax Collection

Clarkstown plans to hit school districts with a 1 percent surcharge, which will ultimately affect taxpayers, said the Nanuet School District. Check back with Patch for updates on this story

 

UPDATE 8/31/12—4:36 p.m.

There was a discussion between the Receiver of Taxes, Town Comptroller and Town Attorney on the issue, which was then communicated to the Supervisor, who then did a memo to the Council Members on May 3, 2012, according to Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack.

"Clarkstown was the only Town of the five Towns in Rockland County that did not charge a processing fee," said Gromack. "Upon researching the issue we realized New York State mandates we collect the 1 percent fee unless the Town Board takes affirmative action to rescind it. With the Town facing over $3 million in costs being shifted from Rockland County Government to the Town, the Town Board decided to do what New York State law mandated us to do and collect the 1 percent processing fee."

There is an upcoming Town Board meeting on Sept 4, during which the processing fee is not one of the topics on the agenda. This surcharge does not need to be passed by the Town Board. The surcharge will go into affect the next school district tax collection cycle (Sept 2012/2013), according to the attached memo.

In a memo dated Aug. 21 from Clarkstown Attorney Amy Mele to Receiver of Taxes Loretta Raimone, it states that a town law authorizes the town board to impose the processing fee "of up to 1 percent of the amount of all school taxes assessed and levied as compensation for the services rendered by the Receiver of Taxes to the various school districts ... unless the town board passes a resolution waiving said fee."

He added that the school districts that will be affected are Clarkstown, Nanuet, Nyack and a small portion of East Ramapo and that he, on behalf of the Town Board, personally contacted the Superintendents of Schools for Clarkstown, Nanuet and Nyack to inform them of this action.

Both the memo and the NYS law regarding this surcharge are attached to this article as PDFs.

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Last November, Anne Byrne, president of the Nanuet Board of Education, and other education officials, stood up and that would instruct the receiver of taxes to charge the Nanuet, Nyack, Pearl River and South Orangetown School Districts a 0.125% fee for collecting their taxes. The Orangetown town board passed the resolution 4-0, with Councilman Michael Maturo absent from the meeting.

Unfortunately, the Nanuet School District will have to repeat this fight. 

The Nanuet Board of Education released a letter late Wednesday afternoon objecting to the Town of Clarkstown’s proposed one percent surcharge for collecting school taxes. Nanuet school officials learned about the surtax on Tuesday, Aug. 7.

The town is allowed by law to add a processing fee for collecting school taxes. However it was never imposed. Now, residents will be receiving bills for higher amounts than they expected or had budgeted for. 

The one percent surtax will collect approximately $355,000 from the Nanuet school district and $1.4 million from Clarkstown School District residents and business owners within the town's borders. It will bring in several hundred thousand dollars more from Clarkstown property owners within the East Ramapo School District and more monies from Nyack.

Although Nanuet School officials found out early August, other school districts were not as fortunate.

James Montesano, superintendent of Nyack Schools, said he first heard the news Wednesday over the phone, from Clarkstown supervisor Alex Gromack.

Board President Joe Malgieri said he was unaware of a proposed surcharge for the district and would look into it. A message was left for Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. Thomas Morton for comment. 

“I just learned about it today (Thursday),” said Clarkstown School Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave Thursday. “Mr. Gromack did confirm to me they were adding the one percent.”

East Ramapo Superintendent Joel Klein said he found out Thursday as well when he received an email from McNeill.

“The first I’ve seen (about it) was a response from another superintendent,” said Klein referring to the letter the Nanuet Board of Education sent to Supervisor Gromack and town board officials.

Calls to town officials asking for additional information and background on their decision and how the added revenue will be used have not been returned. According to Gromack’s office, there will not be a response until Town Attorney Amy Mele is available next week.  

The town sends out the school tax bills from late August through early September and payment is due by late October.  It is not known if an explanation of the one percent surcharge will be included with the tax forms.

The following is a letter from the Nanuet School District to Gromack and the town council speaking out against this surcharge. 

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Dear Supervisor Gromack and other Members of the Town Board:

This letter is a response to the call Supervisor Gromack made to Dr. McNeill announcing the Town’s intention to impose a 1 percent surcharge to every school tax bill. The Nanuet Board of Education is extremely disappointed with this plan because it has the effect of increasing the school tax by 1%. This surcharge comes at a time when Nanuet taxpayers are already suffering due to the partial closing of the Pfizer facility.

Over the past three years, the Nanuet Board of Education has made painful decisions as a result of the Pfizer closing. We have downsized our programs through significant cuts in the budget which included reducing our teaching staff by 8 percent. As a result, the 2012-13 Tax Levy remains below the 2010-11 Tax Levy of two years ago. This was done so that any tax increases would be wholly attributable to the Pfizer closing (or other assessment reductions). For the Town of Clarkstown to impose a 1 percent surcharge, calling it a “processing fee” on school taxes undermines the goodwill that should exist between municipal governments and school districts – on behalf of the taxpayers. We have supported your efforts regarding the County’s attempts to impose fees on the Towns yet this is exactly what is now happening to our taxpayers through the imposition of this surcharge.

With this late notification of only a few weeks before tax bills go out, it is virtually impossible for the Board of Education to seek options that can minimize the fee for processing school property tax bills. If the Town wishes to impose the actual cost of processing the taxes, that should be the limit of the fees imposed. It is our estimate that the total fees under this plan, from all four school districts within the Town, will be 1.5 million dollars a year. Because the Town already has an infrastructure and outside contractors/consultants to collect taxes for itself, the actual cost of collecting taxes for school districts is relatively minimal.

While it is probably too late to seek an alternative to the Town’s processing fee that better serves school district residents this year, we have an obligation to seek means to minimize this cost in the coming years by having the School District assume the responsibility of collecting taxes itself. If the current law does not allow this, we would seek legislative help to relieve this burden on the taxpayers.

We  urge you to reconsider the imposition of this surcharge. As you know, Orangetown considered the same proposal last year and concluded that a ¼ percent surcharge was sufficient to compensate it for the collection of taxes. It will be extremely difficult to explain to our taxpayers why Orangetown can collect the taxes for ¼ of the fee that Clarkstown will charge. If it is truly a service fee, then there is no reason why the Clarkstown fee should be higher than Orangetown’s.

Yours truly,

Anne M. Byrne, President

Ron Hansen, Vice President

Charleen Caulk

Sarah Chauncey

Edward Dingman

Karen Franchino

Peter Whalen

Editor's note, the letter is also attached to this article as a PDF. 

user123123123 August 30, 2012 at 06:12 PM
Nanuet schools taxes are also increasing over 10% based on the rate per thousand of assessed value due to the Pfizer settlement. Make sure you're sitting down when you get the bills in the next week or so. The school district kept their total taxes the same, but the reduction in the Pfizer value means that everyone has to pay more.
Don August 30, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I'm hoping the new Nanuet Mall eventually eases that in the future, but I'm not really counting on my taxes going down. But hopefully the school board can make that happen.
Watchdog August 30, 2012 at 07:19 PM
AND Gromack will ask for even more. If you can't afford it...just take on a boarder. That's his solution.
Watchdog August 30, 2012 at 07:37 PM
DON now that he Newport for you...a bill may be on its way!
user123123123 August 30, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Don - for 2011/2012, the school board, in preparation for the Pfizer settlement, actually decreased the amount they had to raise in taxes overall, but because of the settlement, taxes still went up. This year, the total amount they had to raise was less than a 1% increase from last year (so really, almost no increase over the last two years), but the large jump is because of the Pfizer settlement. I agree, I hope the new Shops at Nanuet eases the problem by adding a large taxable base to the rolls.
Kim Tran (Editor) August 30, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Over in the Clarkstown school district, some were not informed about the surcharge. The one percent surtax will collect $1.4 million from Clarkstown School District residents and business owners. http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/school-tax-surcharge-stuns-school-officials
Watchdog August 30, 2012 at 10:42 PM
USER233....what do you think will happen to your taxes when the Tax Certiori is settled with the Pyramid Mall? THROUGH THE ROOF, ALICE....THROUGH THE ROOF!!! Clarkstown is a House of Cards. That is why they had that secret meeting called by Ed Lettre to keep all the same people off the ballot line. You can't vote for the opposition if there is no opposition. I wonder what's really in those books???????
Watchdog August 30, 2012 at 10:57 PM
GROMACK is always fiull of tricks but adding this surcharge at the last minute without telling the School Superintendents is downright sneaky.....that's the only word for it SNEAKY.
user145 August 31, 2012 at 09:32 PM
The Palisades Center Mall is not part of the Nanuet School District. It will affect the Clarkstown Schools, along with the town as a whole. The town as a whole (for the January bill) will be spread over more people though because it is being spread over the entire town.
Don September 01, 2012 at 05:51 PM
2012 Nanuet school tax arrived today. $1,300 increase over last year.
Joe Riordon September 01, 2012 at 06:29 PM
My school tax bill arrived with a 23% hike + the 1% Clarkstwon collection vig. Clearly I or they misunderstood the 2% cap rule. There is a breaking point.
peter cardiello September 01, 2012 at 09:00 PM
its outrageous what this idiot politicians are doin to us taxpayers. my school taxes have been going up every year since i bought my house in 2006, this year they slap me with a $1000 increase. they shouldnt be able to get away with this robbery while cops and superindents of schools highways and even sewer authorities are making triple digit incomes, thats where the money should come from not from hard working people that barely can survive. a revolution is needed because the current people are ruining families.
Maryann September 03, 2012 at 02:39 AM
I wish. Mine went up about $1600. That means my mortgage will go up next year, since the bank will want to raise the escrow.
Kim Tran (Editor) September 03, 2012 at 03:41 AM
The 2 percent cap refers to the tax levy, not the final number on the school tax bill. The schools have to stay under this 2 percent limit, but after they set their budgets within this cap, several other variables (equalization rate, the Pfizer settlement, homestead, non-homestead) effect the final number. The Nanuet School District's tax levy was .64 percent http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/part-2-nanuet-schools-talk-budget-tax-levy-at-64
Watchdog September 03, 2012 at 11:26 PM
PENSION, PENSIONS AND MORE PENSIONS. THEY ARE KILLING TAXPAYERS.
Irate Taxpayer September 04, 2012 at 02:13 PM
Unbelievable!!!! 16.2% increase in 1 year not to mention the "Processing Fee". Are you kidding me? Perhaps it's time to replace the Bd. members who have been on the Board for years and years. New blood - new thinking. Also, $200K + for cops? Geez. I haven't had a raise in 5 years...in fact a salary reduction. Good Management people - NOT
Joe Ciardullo September 04, 2012 at 02:57 PM
The town is using the "collection charge" as another means of revenue. They needed more revenue in order to maintain the AAA rating that they love tout so much. Instead of looking for more revenue, look at cutting costs. That seems to be something the supervisor and board can't seem to do. We just added a nice 75k a year part time position for someone to answer phones during bad weather. Just wait until the palisades mall case is settled.
Watchdog September 04, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Gromack is like a sharp stick in your eye. He TAKES AND TAKES AND TAKES. THE tax certiorari case will be a big event and wipe out all the slush fund received wen he sold assets of the Town. It is like selling your car and furniture and putting it in the bank and using the money to pay yourself. THAT is what Gromack did to give the cops double digit raises over seven years.
Watchdog September 04, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Gromach snuck up from behind and gave you another 1% tax increase for sending out your bills to ask for even more taxes.
Smitty Chesterfield September 04, 2012 at 05:57 PM
watchdog why don't you run for town office. what are you doing rather than complain
Watchdog September 04, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Smitty what is in your pipe?
Smitty Chesterfield September 04, 2012 at 06:12 PM
thats your response to my question?
Watchdog September 04, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Smitty, the real question is why you consider my comments to be complaining instead of voicing my opinion and giving people like you, who think Neil Armstrong and Lance Armstrong are the same person, important information about how you are getting screwed by all levels of government.
Smitty Chesterfield September 04, 2012 at 06:41 PM
instead of your constant anti-police bashing, tell us your plans and strategy. typical liberal complaining. better reply quickly you dont wanna miss the dnc
Watchdog September 04, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Liberal??? I do not bash, I watch and inform. Did you know That each Clarkstown cop costs taxpayers $200,000 a year and they get 81 days off, effectively working 179 days a year and the Clarkstown Police Chief makes more than the NYC Police Commissioner and the U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE and that 85% of their work is traffic related? If not, now you know.
Smitty Chesterfield September 04, 2012 at 07:08 PM
im guessing that 85 pct of their work is traffic related because theyre keeping us safe and the bad guys know to stay away from clarkstown. we have enough informers. i think you should step up to the plate instead of being a monday morning quarterback
allan erps September 05, 2012 at 11:14 AM
Do not know what some of the answers here are referring to about the Nanuet School Tax increase BUT my school taxes went up approximately 18%!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! tHE JOB OF GOVERNMENT should be taken more seriously Mr. Vanderhoef, Gromack & the like. My vote will not be on your side & good riddance to destroying a great place to live!
Watchdog September 05, 2012 at 12:21 PM
These increases are disgraceful and now we have more money out of the pockets of working families which will affect them as well as our local economy. Government criticizes businesses but turns around and overtaxes them through large assessments to fund all those large salary increases (for the children) over the years for Union teachers, cops and the like. Cops and teachers are the worst offenders. So we have reaped what we have sown, a refund of the over assessed, overtaxed companies. It will not end here folks, the tax cert for the Palisades Mall will be won by the Mall and it is another biggie. Expect another very large increase which will hurt our families and our local economy. Gromack is hoping to stall this until the Nanurt Mall is built, spending more unnecessary tax dollars for unnecessary legal fees, hoping ther will be some offset but what he is doing is even more irresponsible. Please read Michael Hulls latest Blog on the Patch. We are going downhill fast and Gromack, Lettre, Reda and Vanderhoef are directly responsible.
Watchdog September 05, 2012 at 01:08 PM
Smitty that is an outright insult to the Clarkstown taxpayers. The reason we do not have a lot of crime is because our taxpayers are law abiding citizens. Paying Cops $200,000 a year to do this kind of work is preposterous. This is borne about by the fact that they can work one half the year and are off the other half. Here is what they get, it is in their contract. This is what Gromack negotiated in addition to multi year double digit salary increases.  30 vacation 24 sick 8 bereavement 12holidays 7 personal In effect these $200,000 cops work 179 days a year, really like a part time job for them.
Kim Tran (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Alex Gromack will be at the Nanuet Civic Association meeting tonight to field questions about this. http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/tonight-alex-gromack-ed-day-to-attend-nanuet-civic-meeting

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