Sullivan County Democrat
O n l i n e  E d i t i o n National Award-winning, Family-run Newspaper
  NEWS ARCHIVES Established 1891 Callicoon, New York  
home  |  archives

County unveils
fee appeal form

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — February 9, 2010 — The county’s solid waste user fee situation continues to change on a weekly basis.
After announcing more than a week ago there would be no appeals form, county officials unveiled one on Friday.
The appeals form offers residents and businesspeople a standardized way to tell county officials why their user fee(s) should be reduced or even eliminated.
County Treasurer Ira Cohen, who is collecting the forms, said he’ll still accept grievance letters without the form, but attaching a copy of the tax bill in question will speed processing.
“The form is optional,” he explained, adding that it should now be available at town and village halls across the county.
It’s also available for download on the county’s website, Located on the main homepage, it can be found as part of a press release answering some of the more common questions County Manager David Fanslau has received about the user fee.
In other user fee developments:
• The County Legislature is considering revising the law which created the user fee system.
According to Fanslau and Cohen, County Attorney Sam Yasgur has been soliciting input from officials on changes to the law – the most significant of which would be allowing people to appeal their fee without having to pay it first.
Currently, the user fee is non-negotiable. If it’s not paid on time, the full taxes on the property are not considered paid, and penalties apply. Any successful appeals would be handled as refunds.
The revised law under consideration would permit taxpayers to hold off on paying the user fee until their appeal is settled.
“Its main purpose is to allow people to appeal the charges without having to pay first,” confirmed Fanslau.
The proposal is expected to be discussed at this Thursday’s series of legislative committee meetings.
• Cohen has one request for those dissatisfied with the user fee:
Please don’t sue.
Cohen recently met with members and leaders of the Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce, and he got the clear impression that some of the Chamber’s membership might band together and initiate a lawsuit against the county over the user fee system.
“You may win – I don’t know,” he recalled telling them. “But what are you going to gain?”
While he’s got many a problem with the current user fee setup, Cohen said the county is depending upon these funds to make up a deficit this year, and any litigation will simply widen that deficit, which will have to be made up next year. And taxpayers will be called upon to make up that difference.
“I didn’t say that as a threat, just a fact,” Cohen explained.
Chamber President Terri Ward confirmed yesterday that some of her members are considering a lawsuit.
“We know what they [county government] have done is illegal,” she stated.
But the Chamber itself will not participate in a lawsuit, Ward added, even if members do.
“We just want to make sure they do it right next time,” she said.
Cohen plans to reinforce that message at a Friday meeting of the chamber, arguing against spending any money on litigation.
“Instead, let’s spend time together to come up with the best system we can,” he advocated.
The next meeting of the group tasked with that goal – the Solid Waste Review Committee – is set for 9 a.m. on Tuesday, February 16 at the Government Center in Monticello.
It’s open to the public – and public input – and Cohen hopes the discussion will include a waste collection district of some sort.
“You could have a very precise fee structure based on actual use if you had a collection district,” he mused.
At the very least, he added, “we should have a commitment that we come up right now with a new plan next year. ... This [current system] will never work.”
“I think I made very clear that there is a firm commitment from me, as well as the entire Legislature, to review the financing of solid waste operations in the county,” Legislature Chairman Jonathan Rouis replied yesterday, pointing out Cohen is a member of the review committee. “I quite frankly take offense to Ira’s questioning of that commitment and wonder what his real motives might be!”

top of page  |  home  |  archives