Shandaken's settlement with NYC would raise taxes

By Jay Braman Jr.
If the Town of Shandaken agrees to a settlement on the value of the mammoth New York City owned waste treatment plant in Pine Hill, the Big Apple would save hundreds of thousands in taxes, an amount that the rest of the taxpayers in town would then have to pay.
Heidi Clark, the town’s tax assessor, said the settlement, which calls for a one-third reduction in taxes on the property, would result in the city paying about $87,000 less in taxes this year to the town, an amount that is over three percent of the town’s total tax levy for 2009. Clark also said that the city would pay about $212,000 less in school tax this year and that the taxpayers in the entire school district would have to pick up the slack for that amount.
The settlement, prepared by the attornies involved but as yet unofficial, results from a lawsuit filed against Shandaken by the city in 2007 that claimed the property was over assessed. Announced last week, the settlement covers the years 2006, 2007 and 2008 but does not appear to require any repayment to the city for those years. It does reduce the city’s tax responsibility for the Pine Hill plant by roughly one third from now through 2011. Previously the property was valued at $15.4 million for tax purposes. Under the settlement the parties would agree to lower that amount to $10.3 million. The settlement also includes a template that would be used in the future to determine the properties value.
The settlement puts the actual value of the property at $55.1 million. But a clause in the settlement states that if Shandaken were to do a town wide revaluation before 2012 that the value of the property would then be lowered to only $46.9 million.
Another hit would occur in the Big Indian Fire District. The district, with an annual budget of $95,000, contains the city’s property, and gets a substantial amount of its budget paid for by the city. The property is also in the tiny Pine Hill Water District, where the entire tax levy is $50,000. While it was unclear at press time how much is paid by the city to those respective districts, it is certain that it is being investigated.
The Shandaken Town Board has not yet agreed to the settlement, which comes against a backdrop of the governor proposing a freeze on property taxes on state land. Almost three quarters of the town is state owned.