NYC gets another tax break on Ashokan

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By Jay Braman Jr.
The City of New York is getting a lower tax assessment on its Ashokan Reservoir property and the move is expected to make the rest of the taxpayers in the Onteora School District pick up the slack.
About $200,000 worth of slack that is.

Earlier this month the Town of Hurley, which hosts a portion of the Ashokan Reservoir, agreed to reduce the assessment of the 5,700-acre reservoir property in the town from $185 million to $155 million.

The plan is a settlement agreement in response to the city challenging the assessment, seeking the courts to lower it by $40 million. Under the agreement, the assessment is now lowered $30 million and will rise $1 million a year for the next 10 years.

Now that Hurley has made this deal, the same deal must be reached between the city and the Onteora School District. The district’s board of trustees is expected to consider the matter next month.

The city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which owns the reservoirs and surrounding land in the watershed region, has over the years filed many lawsuits against several towns over assessment values.

In 1997 an agreement was reached between DEP and over 50 municipalities in the Catskills Region that called for the city to fork over millions of dollars to the region to pay for the protection of the water. That money, given to a newly formed agency called the Catskill Watershed Corporation, pays for everything from community education programs to new highway department salt sheds to the replacement of residential septic systems and just about anything that would help keep the water pure. One of the programs was a bank account set up with $3 million of city money to pay for legal defense against lawsuits brought on by the city against towns, villages and counties in the watershed region, the idea being to level out the David and Goliath relationship between New York and its wealth and the small, cash-strapped municipalities in the Catskills.

But that account was drained quickly as the city filed lawsuit after lawsuit throughout the region and is now empty, with Shandaken using the last $140,000 of it fighting over the value of the DEP-owned Pine Hill treatment plant several years ago.