Town of Ossining Town Hall Meeting
April 15th, 2014
Ossining Public Library
Agenda: Revaluation “Kick Off” Meeting
Proposed 17/20 Annexation from the Town of Ossining to the Village of Briarcliff Manor
The Town of Ossining has committed to a policy of transparency regarding all issues, including the proposed annexation of Election Districts 17 and 20 from the Unincorporated Area to the Village of Briarcliff Manor. We have spent a great deal of time doing our due diligence, listening to the taxpayers (75-80 percent who spoke at meetings and/or wrote to the Town were not in favor of annexation) and evaluating the body of facts before us. We have studied the annexation law in great detail, and you can read our findings, as well as all the backup data, through the link below:
The Town concluded that it was not in the best interest of the residents of Districts 17/20, the rest of the Unincorporated Area, the Village of Briarcliff Manor or the Village of Ossining, for annexation to go forward.
Conversely, the Village of Briarcliff Manor performed their own analysis on the proposed request (which can be found on their web page), and concluded that annexation would be in the best interest of the community.
The Village of Briarcliff Manor now has the option to take the matter to the appellate court. This process will cause the community to incur a variety of unbudgeted legal costs, as special counsel will have to be hired to represent both the Town of Ossining and the Village of Briarcliff in the proceedings. We cannot even begin to estimate these costs, but we have not yet heard from Briarcliff Manor as to whether they will plan to pursue this in the court. In the meanwhile, the Town will proactively begin the process of interviewing law firms to get estimates to see how this will impact our budget.
Revaluation of the Town of Ossining
Over the past two years, we have discussed the plan for a total revaluation of all Town properties – residential as well as commercial. We have spoken about it at many of our Town Hall Meetings and work sessions; we have even hosted speakers from New York State Office of Real Property Tax Services (ORPTS) who encourage all communities to undergo a “reval”, so that all property owners are ensured a fair and equable assessment of their property, resulting in each owner only paying their fair share of taxes.
While there may be a shift in how some properties are valued, many people will find that their property taxes will not change drastically. We, as do other municipalities in Westchester, use equalization rates to account for the differences in value on today’s tax roll. This is not a tax increase, but rather a revaluation to ensure that the municipalities, schools/library (Ossining) and Westchester County are distributing the tax burden of the fairly.
We have worked with both Villages and school systems on this project, and have actively kept them in the “loop” throughout the whole process. Everyone understands the importance of this process, as it is the only way to both slow and minimize the grieving of taxes, which result in large refunds, lost administrative time, and costs to borrow money to pay settlements.
The Town (not counting the Villages, Schools or Westchester County) has had to bond to pay the refunds. Looking at the chart below, you can plainly see how the Town would be best served by correcting this entire process and moving forward with an updated tax roll.
Year Tax Certioraris $ SCARS$ Total $ paid out for Tax Certs and SCARS
2009 $120,379.53 $ 184.18 $120,563.71
2010 $ 96,146.07 $ 29,759.53 $125,905.60
2011 $536,222.61 $ 34,941.91 $571,164.52
2012 $253,771.87 $ 2,676.15 $256,448.02
2013 $202,424.36 $ .00 $202,424.36
Total 5 years refunds: $1,276,506.21
Again, if you are concerned that your house or commercial property is incorrectly assessed, please call the Assessor’s Office at (914) 762-8274. Home owners, you may see your mailboxes flooded with postcards and letters in the very near future (if they have not started already) from tax grievance companies. Don’t forget, you always have the option of speaking with our Assessor instead, rather than paying these companies to simply have the conversation for you!
On April 15th, 2014, we will have our next Town Hall Meeting, and the company handling the project will be there to present a detailed overview of the project.
Just an example of the questions that will be answered:
- How does the process happen?
- What is the time frame of the project?
- Will my home or business be physically inspected?
- How do I ensure that I have the correct building permits/inspections for any work that I had done in the past?
- What are the costs associated with going to the Building Department(s) after I have done the work that required a permit?
The PILOT at Harbor Square
There will be a public hearing on Monday, April 7th at 11:00 AM at the Joseph G Caputo Community Center concerning the PILOT for the Harbor Square Project. As you may know, the Town of Ossining said NO to the PILOT, but it appears it will move forward for the Village of Ossining, Ossining School District and the Ossining Public Library, as well as Westchester County.
I know I will be there, because the Town feels that PILOTs should be employed for commercial properties bringing jobs into the community and who demonstrate hardship, and not to enhance the profits of a developer.
Our statement from our December 2013 Supervisor's Update was and will always remain:
“The Town has passed a resolution objecting to the proposed PILOT for Harbor Square. After extensive review, we have determined that it is not in the best interest of the community to allow this PILOT to go through. At the December 10th, 2013 meeting of the Town Board when this resolution was on the agenda, I read the following statement on behalf of most of the Town Board:
‘The Town of Ossining welcomes development of real property that is fully within the law. We understand that an owner of a property is fully within its right to develop as they so choose, but it must be in accordance with all applicable laws, including the payment of property taxes.
In the current economic environment, tax revenues that we need to provide necessary services are lower- our mortgage tax revenues are lower, sales tax revenues are lower, franchise tax revenues are lower, property tax revenues are lower. That is why, now, more than ever, we must stand firm on equity and fairness.
Tonight’s vote is fair to all taxpayers in Ossining WHO CONSTANTLY REMIND US THAT WE WERE ELECTED TO REDUCE THEIR TAX BURDEN. We cannot support a proposed PILOT, or Payment In Lieu of Taxes, that will unquestionably increase the demand for services, but shifts the tax burden in excess of $2.3 million onto our taxpayers.
The developer of Harbor Square seeks permission to circumvent the property tax laws that apply to all property owners in the Town of Ossining. According to the Westchester Industrial Development Agency, PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) plans should be used for business growth such as industrial manufacturing, commercial, and R&D. The IDA’s guidelines for claiming Real Property Tax Exemptions does not even include an exemption for development of Real Property. The proposed residential PILOT would inappropriately excuse the developer from paying over $2,300,000 in tax revenue that otherwise should be collected and distributed in the same way as every residential taxpayer’s taxes are collected and distributed by the Town.
The potential tax losses from the proposed PILOT are as follows:
Entity Percent of total taxes (2013) Loss from PILOT
Ossining School District 58.78% $1,392,498
Ossining Library 2.36% $ 55,908
Village of Ossining 25.80% $ 611,202
Town General 1.64% $ 38,851
Westchester County 8.35% $ 197,811
Westchester County Sewer .82% $ 19,425
Ossining Sewer 1.74% $ 41,220
Other residential property developers have paid their fair share of taxes, and permitting this individual developer to circumvent centuries-old tax requirements sets a dangerous and irreversible precedent for treatment of future developers and subsequent developments.
It is possible that the developer’s request for tax reduction may be motivated in part by its financial condition resulting from its using Harbor Square as collateral to take out mortgages totaling $14,400,000; if this is true, we cannot permit the taxpayers to be held responsible for the developer’s profits and/or other financial concerns.
In any event, the fact that the principals of the firm used Harbor Square as collateral to take out mortgages totaling $14,400,000 demonstrates to this Board that there was consensus between the developer and the issuing bank that the property was worth no less than $14mm at the time of the mortgage. Therefore, despite Harbor Square’s tax grievance regarding calculation of the 2014 taxes, the Town is confident that the current assessed value of $9,600,000 will stand up in court, especially since the Village Board has recently approved a new site plan for the property that is shovel ready. With respect to the developer’s tax grievance, it is important to note that no action taken now will result in any tax refund to the developer.
Some residents have been vocal about being 100% fair to all parties in all dealings, but now in the case of Harbor Square wish the Town Board to do what the developer wants. Our pledge to each resident and commercial property owner is to have fair and equitable assessments on property in the Town. That is why the Town of Ossining, and numerous other Westchester municipalities, is beginning a complete re-assessment of all properties beginning in the 2nd quarter of 2014. This Board feels strongly that the proposal to excuse Harbor Square from its obligation to pay $2.3mm in property taxes on the eve of a major revaluation is contrary to our mission to instill fairness in property taxation and would send precisely the wrong message to those who demand and are entitled to fair distribution of the tax burden.
The developers have indicated that, without approval of this proposed PILOT, they will not build the development. There is no good reason for the developer not to build the development if it is required to pay its property tax obligations, especially since the building will contain rental units that, once rented out by the developer, will offset a portion of the developer’s tax burden. Therefore, the developer will be able to recoup the outlay of its tax obligation by charging rent. If they refuse to build, keeping in mind they have an approved site plan, and then we welcome them to sell the property and let Ossining move on.
We are an Independent Board elected by the residents of Ossining- we cannot govern as others want us to, nor can we tell others how to govern. However, we feel a responsibility not to abdicate our role in this process- we made our residents a promise to do what we feel is right for this community which includes fair distribution of taxes, and we do not plan to go back on that promise.’”
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”