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'Despised' fee to get refined

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — January 19, 2010 — Prepare for a workover of the much-despised solid waste user fee.
Legislators are scheduled to meet today to finalize a plan that, during Thursday’s Executive Committee meeting, included a flat $200-$300 fee for every business that utilizes the county’s solid waste system.
Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis said county officials are also pondering alternatives to the user fee system, though the just-enacted policy won’t be tossed aside for at least another year.
In the meantime, with more than 200 letters of protest sent to legislators, changes are already being made.
During a special meeting on Thursday – where many of the county’s town assessors and tax collectors showed up – legislators unanimously agreed to undertake a mass correction of errors where the user fee was incorrectly applied to everything from vacant lands to cemeteries.
“The inequities were larger than we had thought,” admitted Rouis.
This week, changes are also being mulled to the grievance process (which Rouis said would be “utterly cumbersome” in its currently proposed form), to how veterans organizations’ facilities and houses of worship are charged, to clarifying whether apartment buildings should be assessed the flat commercial fee or a per-unit residential fee.
One thing is certain: no one’s rates will go up any higher than what was on their January tax bill.
The state Office of Real Property Services told county leaders that a retroactive rate increase would be legally questionable – though a retroactive rate decrease would be acceptable.
Today’s 9 a.m. meeting to adjust the user fee system, however, won’t be the last.
Rouis announced that a Solid Waste Review Committee has been formed to study the matter and make recommendations to the Legislature within the next three months.
The committee consists of Legislature Vice Chair Elwin Wood, Treasurer Ira Cohen, County Manager David Fanslau, County Attorney Sam Yasgur, Real Property Tax Services Director Lynda Levine, Chamber of Commerce Board Chair Jeremy Gorelick, Legislator David Sager, Legislator Ron Hiatt, Legislator Alan Sorensen, and representatives of the county supervisors’, tax collectors’ and assessors’ associations.
Have a beef with fee?
Those with issues, comments, concerns and questions on the current user fee system are invited to call County Treasurer Ira Cohen at 807-0200. For those who wish to grieve the fee assessed on their property or properties, send a letter of explanation along with a copy of the bill to Cohen at 100 North Street, Monticello, NY 12701.
Cohen said that even if he can’t take any action, he’ll include the letter in a special file that will be reviewed when action can be taken.
“I didn’t write the law,” he acknowledged. “[But] somebody has to be helpful.”

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