Happy Holidays to ALL
Wishing each of you peace, joy and time to spend with family and friends during the holidays.
Town Hall Meeting
January 21, 2014
Ossining Public Library
17/20 Proposed Annexation
As many of you are aware, the Boards of the Town of Ossining and the Village of Briarcliff Manor are in the process of determining if it is in the best interest of the entire Town of Ossining (meaning the majority of Briarcliff, the entire Village of Ossining, and the Unincorporated Area) for election districts 17 & 20 to be annexed out of the Unincorporated area and onto the Village of Briarcliff Manor.
During our review of the process, the Town has determined a set of criteria that should be examined in order to determine which outcome is in the best interest of our community:
- "Benefit" and "detriment" to the community, in the context of an annexation, are defined in terms of municipal services, such as police and fire protection, health regulations, sewer and water services, public utilities and public education. Therefore, our primary focus will be on availability of necessary services, as well as the quality of those services provided to the unincorporated Town, and whether those services would be improved in Districts 17 and 20 as a result of the proposed annexation.
- The Board must also gauge community support for the annexation, including residents of the affected area, residents who live in the other election districts of the Unincorporated Area, and residents living in the Villages of Briarcliff Manor and Ossining, who would also be affected by this decision. Proving unity of purpose is an often cited reason for approving an annexation.
- Special Districts, such as water, sewer, fire, ambulance, solid waste, lighting, and refuse and recycling would not be impacted in an annexation, leading to double taxation for some services.
- The Town will consider verifiable estimates regarding the tax implications to the areas not being annexed, and, if possible, to the balance of Briarcliff Manor. There must be clear, verifiable, not just perceived benefits to all affected parties to provide a basis to approve annexation.
- Shifting tax revenue from one municipality to another is not considered an increase in overall tax revenue. This would be the case of Mortgage Tax which is a Town General Revenue, which benefits all the residents of the Town of Ossining.
- The remaining governmental unit could also be said to include the Village of Ossining, as part of the Town. Our analysis will focus on the cooperative existing relationship between the Town and Village of Ossining through a myriad of intermunicipal agreements. Those agreements, including such expenses as finance, clerk, rent of facilities, engineering, etc. may indicate that carefully calibrated budgets of both municipal entities and staffing levels in various departments might be impacted by the proposed annexation.
At this point, Briarcliff has suggested that finances are the leading reason that this would be the best for the two election districts in question. We don’t agree that this is the proper focus of our inquiry. In addition, we have some concerns with the information that was presented at the public hearing on December 12th, particularly concerning the numerous assumptions made to justify their conclusions. We have advised Briarcliff of these concerns and forwarded them new information. We wanted to make sure you received the correct information concerning several of the slides from the Briarcliff presentation which is available on both of our web pages.
The questions we have asked Briarcliff Manor via email are as follows:
- Where have you included the anticipated new employees in the calculation for the taxation of the residents of 17/20 (page 33, 60% of new Police and DPW)? Where does your presentation reflect the 40% (page 33 added Police and DPW) added to the current of Village of Briarcliff Manor residents tax bill?
- If you have not, are you planning on using the fiscal years that you used with the adjusted payrolls for the Police and DPW Departments to show the correct taxes?
- Can you give us more details on what you mean concerning OVAC, Fire District 20 and Administration (page 33)? How did you calculate the costs of the three sections and how does this affect the tax bill of both 17/20 residents and Briarcliff Manor residents?
- What Capital Projects (ex: the expanded Community Center) are you planning during the next 5 years and how will that increase your debt?
- What is your anticipated Bond payments for the next 5 years (both interest and principal) for both existing projects and new ones?
- The page concerning salaries (page 32) is misleading. Please supply us with your administration costs . You are aware that I am the CFO, COO for the Town. “Apples to Apples” is our goal.
We will continue to review the presentations from both communities to ensure that we have clear and accurate information for the residents and commercial tax payers in the Unincorporated Area of the Town of Ossining, as well as those in the Villages of Briarcliff Manor and Ossining.
Other news concerning the Town of Ossining
The Town Board and administration has been hard at work preparing for 2014. We have completed our budget and stayed within the tax cap. Please find the budget on the web page. While some of the increases may seem high, the overall budget is within the tax cap. Please remember that, for the Town General fund, every “point” of tax increase represents just $29,500 in increased expenditures over the prior year.
We have settled the CSEA union contract, which covers most of our full-time employees, except for our Teamsters in the Highway and Parks Departments. We believe we have developed a contract that is fair to the taxpayers as well as to our employees. We want to thank each of our employees, whether they are union (CSEA & Teamsters), appointed or elected, for a job well done throughout 2013.
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, 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.”