by Robert Kimmel
Property owners in Sleepy Hollow are facing variable school tax payments for the current and subsequent tax year because of a miscalculation by the Town of Mount Pleasant when it assessed Edge-On-Hudson, the planned riverside development in the village. While taxpayers experienced taxes lowered by 12.3 percent for the 2015-16 tax year, they will be confronted with a 9 to 10 percent tax increase for the coming school tax year because of the error.
The miscalculation by the town led the developer of the former GM site, Lighthouse Landing, LLC, to pay approximately $1.4 million in taxes for the 2015-16 school year, considerably more than what it should have paid for the still undeveloped site.
The purchase of the riverside parcel by Lighthouse Landing in late 2014 ended a special low Payment in Lieu of Taxes, (PILOT), existing for GM since 1985, and had placed the site back on the tax rolls. GM’s last PILOT payment to the Tarrytown School District for the full site was $289,000.
Last May, it was estimated that the higher taxes from the site from Lighthouse Landing LLC would provide other property owners an initial reduction in taxes of 2.19 percent. As it turned out the correct decrease would have been 4.76 percent based on a correct evaluation of the site, rather than the 12 percent taxpayers experienced.
“In simplest terms, the error by Mount Pleasant resulted in Lighthouse Landing overpaying, or taking a greater share of, the town’s tax obligation,” as Tarrytown’s Interim School Superintendent, Dr. Daniel T. McCann explained it in a letter posted on the school district’s website. With Lighthouse Landing, LLC paying more of its share of the total taxes, other taxpayers got a lower tax bill.
McCann pointed out that “…even with the projected tax rate increase for 2016-17, Sleepy Hollow residents will still pay a tax rate lower than in the 2014-15 school year. He emphasized that, “The Public Schools of the Tarrytowns does not calculate final tax rates or set assessed values on properties within the District. Only the town can do that.”
“The District has consistently maintained a prudent financial profile,” McCann noted. “Since the State of New York began imposing a tax levy cap on public school districts in 2011, the Tarrytowns has always put forth a school district budget that is within the tax cap and called for very modest spending increases.” He added that compliance with the tax levy cap, has “…provided qualified residents with tax rebates,” based on the State’s tax freeze credit program.
Mt. Pleasant, on its website, offered an example of how the Edge-On-Hudson payments would affect someone who had been previously paying taxes of $10,000. The initial estimated bill would have brought that tax bill down to $9,781. The actual payment for 2015-16 was lowered to $8,770 because of the heavier than anticipated tax burden on Edge-On-Hudson. So that taxpayer will have to make up the difference in 2016-17 taxes by paying $9,525.