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The Delaware Free Branch in Callicoon, part of the Western Sullivan Public Library.

Library getting $7,000 check from IDA due to oversight

By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE — July 2, 2010 — Correcting an apparent miscalculation, the Western Sullivan Public Library (WSPL) has just gotten a $7,119.40 check from the county’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA).
And many of Sullivan County’s libraries may be in line for checks next year, as well.
“If anybody had confusion, we’re going to do this for everyone next year,” said IDA Executive Director Jennifer Brylinski.
That confusion – more like consternation – started with Marge Brown, who serves as both a founding WSPL board member and the Town of Bethel’s assessor.
Earlier this year, while sorting through spreadsheets, she noted that the IDA didn’t seem to be paying its share of the library’s taxes – or more accurately, the taxes due in the PILOT (Payments In Lieu Of Taxes) agreements the IDA had reached with both the Millennium Pipeline and Villa Roma in years past.
Such PILOT agreements allow long-term tax breaks for businesses which undertake capital efforts designed to benefit the company and community with jobs and revenue. Over the course of up to 20 years, those companies pay ever-increasing real property tax amounts, ultimately ending their PILOTS by paying the full tax rate.
A principal activity of the IDA, more than 50 such projects dot the Sullivan County landscape.
The IDA uses a formula to calculate what taxes are owed to each taxing entity every year, with checks cut to those entities by the IDA every February.
For example, the IDA paid more than $27,000 to the Town of Bethel this year for PILOTs with Bethel Woods, Millennium, A.K.L. Realty, and the Swan Lake Golf and Country Club.
Though the various amounts owed by each were broken down in a letter to the township, one check was cut, straight from the IDA.
However, WSPL and most of the other libraries serving the county have their taxes collected via the local school district, reducing the cost and complexity of collecting the funds on their own.
Drawing on her 30 years of assessor experience, Brown discovered that there was no library share of the check being cut to the Sullivan West school district from the Millennium and Villa Roma PILOTs.
“Nobody had ever looked into it,” she said.
IDA officials initially thought the library’s share was included in the school rate, but Brown proved otherwise, and the IDA subsequently contacted Millennium and Villa Roma officials, who voluntarily agreed to provide the more than $7,000.
Still, in keeping with established protocol, the check was sent this week to Sullivan West’s business office, which was forwarding it on to WSPL.
Brylinski and IDA attorney Walter Garigliano said the issue will be corrected in next year’s tax cycle.
“We’re going to write checks directly to the libraries,” Garigliano explained. “... We’re going to handle it by doing the right thing.”
WSPL’s payment, however, is for this year’s taxes, not next. Garigliano said it will be the only library to see any funds this year “because it’s a significant amount of money.”
The other involved amounts, said Brylinski, are “minuscule” – though IDA Executive Assistant Lisa Hunt acknowledged that research on who’s owed what is not yet finished.
According to Hunt, there are apparently other PILOT projects in WSPL’s district which owe amounts that will not be paid – close to $400 from Central New York Railroad’s agreement and less than $75 from Fosterdale Equipment’s agreement.
The IDA determined that further research and mailing expenses were not warranted for this year.
“It wasn’t worth it for the amounts involved,” said Brylinski.
Not all libraries in the county have an IDA PILOT project within their boundaries, and those whose taxes are collected separately from the school district may have always gotten what was due them.
For those that are owed, however, payments will begin next year and not be retroactive.
“We’re not going back in years,” affirmed Brylinski.
Garigliano said the law doesn’t specifically address taxing errors in PILOT agreements, so the IDA is relying on the state’s Real Property Tax Law, which he said specifies going back no more than a year when correcting such errors.
However, the IDA, said Brylinski, had to ask Millennium and the Villa Roma to make the additional tax payments, so it remains unclear how many extra checks the IDA will be cutting to libraries next year.
To ensure everyone gets what they’re owed, Brown has notified the countywide assessors’ association, and word is spreading rapidly around the libraries, as well.
“I have a soft spot for libraries,” Brown remarked.

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