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Waste Committee eyes per-parcel fee structure

By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO — July 16, 2010 — The committee reviewing the solid waste user fee is now just one meeting away from setting up the actual fees property owners will be charged come January.
And unless the County Legislature decides otherwise, it will be a parcel-based fee rather than a per-unit one.
“We just could not make the units work out,” acknowledged Delaware Town Clerk/Tax Collector Tess McBeath at Tuesday’s meeting of the committee.
Earlier in the month, Real Property Tax Services Director Lynda Levine met with about half of the county’s town assessors to determine parcel categories.
Each category will feature a flat fee – i.e., no matter the size and type of a business, all commercial properties will be charged the same amount.
The fee is not generation-based, so large generators of waste will pay the same as small generators.
“It’s going to be too subjective otherwise,” explained Sullivan County Chamber of Commerce Board Chairman Jeremy Gorelick.
Plus, added County Manager David Fanslau, higher generators of waste will pay for that through larger tipping fees.
At this point, the property categories are thus:
• Unimproved (land value and assessed value are equal)
• Residential
• Non-residential
• Commercial that’s strictly residential (i.e., an apartment house)
• Veterans halls, firehouses, ambulance corps stations, houses of worship and municipal properties
• Mixed-use
Reduced rates will be given to senior citizens who already receive an aged exemption on their taxes.
Coupled with flow control (requiring all waste generated in the county be disposed in the county), officials are hoping to avoid repeating the more than 400 appeals they received to this year’s user fee – many based on the contention that their waste is being trucked out of the county.
Inaccurately assessed fees that must be corrected will be unavoidable, but the idea is to create a system that pays for existing landfill debt and doesn’t lead to further costs.
But can such appeals really be purged?
“I don’t want this to be an exercise in futility,” worried Highland Assessor Renee Ozomek. “I just want to know that this is legally defensible.”
“Anything can be challenged,” replied County Attorney Sam Yasgur. “It’s novel, it’s new… I have no crystal ball.”
“Probably no matter what we do,” acknowledged Legislature Vice Chair Elwin Wood, “we’re going to be challenged.”
It was noted, however, that none of this year’s appeals led to litigation.
“You think they’re really going to waste time and effort… for a $300 fee?” questioned Neversink Supervisor Greg Goldstein, referring to the possible fee for commercial users.
“All it takes,” replied Legislator Ron Hiatt, “is one guy with an attitude.”
The next meeting of the committee is set for Tuesday, August 3 at 9 a.m. inside the Government Center in Monticello and is open to the public.
In the meantime, the county will work with the assessors to create a dummy tax roll to iron out category issues. The committee will then use that information to create a fee schedule for recommendation to the Legislature.

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