By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO October 28, 2005 Town of Neversink residents will be smacked with a 73 percent county property tax increase following a 5-4 vote Wednesday by the Sullivan County Legislature to adopt the apportionment rate established by the New York State Office of Real Property Services.
The increase will be due to a new procedure which will take the watershed used and owned by New York City off the apportionment of taxes, even though New York City pays taxes on the land to the county and town (and is in fact both the town and countys largest taxpayer).
The result will drive Town of Neversink county tax rates up by $132.31 per $80,000 of assessed value.
By doing so, individual tax rates in the township will rise to levels equal to other municipalities in the county.
The vote to approve the new method was made by all five Democrats, with all four Republicans opposed.
Outgoing Town of Neversink Supervisor Georgianna Lepke lobbied extremely hard against the measure. On two occasions, she spoke in depth in front of the Legislature, asking them not to adopt the law.
Republican Legislator Greg Goldstein, who represents the town but will soon be taking Lepkes place as supervisor, said the county did not act on the measure for the last two years, so there was no reason to do so now, but to no avail.
If the county had voted against the measure, the town would have seen a 25 percent increase in county property taxes.
Town and school taxes will not be affected by the measure.
The new methodology will make the Town of Neversink the third-highest taxpaying town in the county, behind only Thompson and Mamakating, although their population is less than neighboring towns like Fallsburg and Liberty.
Democratic legislators such as Chairman Chris Cunningham, Ron Hiatt and Jonathan Rouis said they voted for the new method so that Town of Neversink taxpayers would be treated equally with other county taxpayers. As a result, taxpayers in the 14 other towns will save an average of approximately $6.76 per $80,000 of assessed value.
Speaking in favor of the new law, Rouis said, It is not fair to ask our towns to pay more than our fair share.
Democrats added that the county could opt out of the program next year if they wish.
Democratic Majority Leader Kathleen LaBuda said that three out of four supervisors in her district supported the measure (including Town of Lumberland Supervisor John LiGreci and Town of Mamakating Supervisor Charles Penna).
Republican Minority Leader Rodney Gaebel said that the four supervisors in his district were split over the matter. He noted that Ulster County adopted the new method last year but opted out this year. He said he would like to know the reason. Delaware County has not opted into the program.
Republican Legislator Jodi Goodman said the county was giving into New York Citys attitude on the reservoir (which includes a lawsuit against the town to lower its assessment).
Afterwards, Lepke projected that Neversink residents would be filling up the hearing room of the Legislature to protest the move. Shocked Neversink residents likely caused the non-stop busy signals at the Neversink Town Hall yesterday.