By Nathan Mayberg
MONTICELLO January 31, 2006 Three months after the Town of Neversinks taxes rose by 74 percent due to the Sullivan County Legislature approving the New York State Large Parcel Tax Bill, town residents are still fairly furious.
And their representatives are still trying to turn the countys mind around.
Despite intense lobbying efforts by former Supervisor Georgianna Lepke and then-Sullivan County Legislator Greg Goldstein to persuade the Legislature not to adopt the bill, the measure was approved late last year by a party-line vote of 5-4, with all five Democrats approving.
On Thursday, Town of Neversink Councilman Richard Coombe Jr. gave a 20-minute Powerpoint presentation on the effects of the large parcel bill, how and why the county should not approve it again this year, and how the Neversink and Rondout reservoirs contribute to the town and countys tax structure. He was accompanied by current Town Supervisor Greg Goldstein.
The bill was approved by the State Legislature in 2002 to eliminate disparities amongst non-large parcel properties within counties so that certain towns did not have lower amounts in county taxes.
The county did not adopt the bill for two years. But in 2005, legislators did so, effectively reducing the average taxpayers bill throughout the rest of the county by approximately $6.76 per $80,000 of assessed value, while Neversink residents saw their new tax bills shoot up $132.32 per $80,000 of assessed value.
According to Coombe, the towns taxes were scheduled to increase 20 percent regardless of the new bill. That means the bill itself contributed to an approximately 50 percent increase in county taxes for the town.
Some legislators appeared to be listening intently to the presentation, which was accompanied by a slide show and a 33-page color packet.
The large parcel, of course, is the New York City watershed, mostly in relation to the Neversink Reservoir. The city pays $2,822,881 in taxes to the county for the property. Town residents paid $1,297,169,42 in taxes before the bill. Now, they will pay $2,822,881.24.
Town residents pay the highest amount of taxes per resident for any other town in the county, stated the documentation. The average Neversink resident pays $1,299.72 in county taxes. The Town of Forestburgh is second highest at $1,046.21, followed by the Town of Lumberland at $817.72, according to figures provided by Coombe.
Meanwhile, New York City and the town are in litigation over the assessment of the reservoir property. The reality of hosting the drinking supply for the largest city in the country has resulted in severe restrictions on any kind of development in the town essentially barring any major construction, particularly for commercial purposes, said Coombe.
In summary, said the councilman, There is a significant cost associated with living and doing business in the New York City watershed. We have regulations without representation.
Afterwards, Legislature Chairman Chris Cunningham thanked Coombe for a really, really good presentation.
He said the issues would be addressed in legislative committee.
Legislator Elwin Wood, who now represents most of the town, called upon the county to take a new look at the legislation they passed.
Legislator Leni Binder, who represents the southeastern portion of Neversink, said the decision of the Legislature could impact the litigation between the county and town, resulting in a decreased tax payment from New York City the countys largest taxpayer.