Tag Archive | "David Paterson"

Stimulus Package May Help at Home

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The ink is not yet dry on the stimulus package, but local municipalities may see federal money flowing into their coffers very soon. According to Congressman Tim Bishop, Long Island will receive around $200 million — over a two year period — in transportation development projects, but nearly half of the money allocated for highway construction must be spent within 90 days. Bishop added these funds will be distributed to local municipalities by the New York State Metropolitan Transportation Committees. Municipalities will apply for the money as if they were applying for a grant. These transportation projects will most likely create close to 8,000 jobs.
Bishop added many of the budgetary cuts made by New York State Governor David Paterson, especially in the education sector, will be offset by money from the state stabilization fund. Overall, Paterson cut almost $800 million from state education budgets. The Sag Harbor School district’s budget will be cut by almost $186,000.
“Without the state stabilization fund [these schools] would be forced to lay thousands of people off or would be forced to raise property taxes, and many people can’t afford higher property taxes,” reported Bishop.
Bishop remains confident the Sag Harbor school district will be granted additional funds to shore up this budgetary loss. He reported $195,000 is already earmarked for the district.
At a local level, Bishop said Suffolk County — an area which relies heavily on the construction industry and real estate sales — will benefit from a neighborhood stabilization fund and real estate tax breaks. The neighborhood stabilization fund allows local municipalities to purchase foreclosed or abandoned properties. Bishop asserts that construction workers will then be hired to rehabilitate these buildings. These properties will be available as workforce housing rentals, after construction is complete, he believes.
In addition, first time real estate buyers will be given a tax credit of nearly $8,000, though there is an income contingency to be eligible for this tax break. Bishop added that $30 million will be used to construct a new laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which is part of Stony Brook University.
Bishop said a recent halt in construction projects on the East End has had a trickle down effect throughout many businesses in the community. “Behind every economic statistic there is a story … The builders had to lay off their crew. Now the deli owners are selling fewer sandwiches because these workers were laid off … Real estate agents haven’t made a sale in months, which affects lawyers who depend upon real estate closings … Everywhere you look, [the recession] has an impact.”
Nearly 95-percent of American families will also be given a tax break, which will include tens of thousands of families on Long Island, added Bishop.
Bishop said the main stimulus package is broken up into three main objectives: to keep money in the hands of people who need it and will spend it, to provide assistance to the states so they won’t be forced to lay off employees or reduce services, and, finally, to create numerous service projects.
Bishop believes these goals will help encourage consumer spending. He added that spending and lending are the cruxes of the American economy.
“People have simple stopped spending,” reported Bishop. “We need to put money back into the hands of people who need it.”
It is still unclear by what channels the funds will be distributed throughout the government, or how much money will be designated for Sag Harbor and the surrounding towns. Bishop expects to have answers to these questions within the coming weeks or months.
Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris remains “cautiously optimistic” the village will receive funding for infrastructure projects, such as the safe routes to school project and the reconstruction of the fence at the old burial ground. He expects, however, most of the federal funding will be used for infrastructure and education, and very little will trickle down to offset the operating costs of the village. For now, Ferraris added, the village will continue to operate on an austerity basis.
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East Hampton will bear the Brunt of Taxes in Sag Harbor School District

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Both Southampton and East Hampton town finalized their tentative budgets last week, with the maximum increase allowed by law for Southampton and a considerable increase for East Hampton residents.
Adding a further burden, residents on the East Hampton side of the Sag Harbor School District will see an increase in their school tax rate this year, while those on the Southampton side of town will see a rate decrease.
In a report on the Sag Harbor School’s website earlier this month, business manager Len Bernard, outlined that the expected increase for Sag Harbor residents in East Hampton will be 17 percent while district residents on the Southampton side will see a decrease of 4.5 percent. The total tax levy for the school district is expected to increase by $471,762 from $24,650,798 in the 2007-2008 school year to $25,122,560 for 2008-2009. The total increase is 1.92 percent and will be paid solely by the residents on the East Hampton side of the village. Bernard explains that’s because of the recently revised equalization rates set by New York State that found a higher market value for homes in East Hampton and a lower rate for Southampton town homes.
“Homes in East Hampton have not had new equalization rates for probably 50 years,” Bernard said on Tuesday, “I remember back to the mid-90’s where the assessors said we need to reassess there.”
Bernard said that last year, Southampton Town residents paid 89.55 percent of Sag Harbor School districts’ property tax levy while East Hampton residents paid 10.45 percent. The changing market values caused primarily by the changing equalization rates, will now require Southampton residents to pay 87.82 percent of the tax levy and East Hampton to pay 12.18 percent in the upcoming tax bill. Southampton property is assessed at 100 percent of market value, whereas East Hampton is only assessed at .61 of a percent.
Bernard, a former East Hampton Town councilman and budget advisor, said, “The continued downward movement in the East Hampton Town equalization rate and Southampton’s work to assess at 100 percent of market value has created this situation.”
To arrive at the tax rate for Southampton residents in the district, Bernard explains that the assessed value of the property is divided by the equalization rate.
“In Southampton, there is a $1,000 total assessment, equal to 100 percent,” Bernard said on Tuesday. That means that Southampton Town residents in the district are assessed on the full value of their properties.
The new assessed rate for Southampton Town was set over the summer, up from 89.7 percent to 100 percent for town residents in the district.
“In East Hampton, on the other hand, the assessment went up a little bit, but their equalization rate went down. For example, if there is $1,000 of assessed value in East Hampton, it would translate into $163,000 of market value — the equalization rate would translate into less than one percent.”
Bernard noted that for East Hampton, the assessment number can’t be used to determine the tax rate. Instead, the equalization rate must be used to arrive at market value. He explained that if the assessment rate goes up while the equalization rate goes down, market value becomes higher.
Last year, Southampton’s equalization rate was 87.5 percent and East Hampton’s rate was .67 of a percent, according to Bernard. The district predicted last winter that Southampton would see a 2.30 percent decrease in 2009-10 while East Hampton would see a 2.23 percent decrease — but the new equalization rates that were recently adopted by both towns changed those predictions.
“When I did the budget presentation [earlier this year] I based the projection of tax rates on the equalization rates then,” Bernard explained. “Then in October I explained at the monthly key communicators meeting that the numbers had changed.”
He added though the numbers have been public for a while, he is expecting there will soon be some rumblings from residents.
Ed Deyermond, Southampton’s sole assessor and a resident on the East Hampton side of the village, said on Monday, “It’s going to be a really difficult time for people in East Hampton.”
Deyermond explained that there could be a 39 percent increase in school and town taxes for some village residents in East Hampton.
Bernard said that the number of homes on the East Hampton side of the Sag Harbor School District are far fewer than those on the Southampton side of the district. The number of parcels eligible for STAR exemptions in the Sag Harbor School District, according to Bernard, are 1,563 in Southampton Town jurisdiction and 226 on the East Hampton side. The STAR program is the New York State School Tax Relief program.
“It is unfortunate that with such a small increase in the tax levy one segment of the taxpaying public has to bear the full burden of paying for it,” Sag Harbor School Superintendent Dr. John Gratto said. “The district, though, has no control over how the towns assess their properties, how the state sets equalization rates and how the law dictates the manner in which we allocate the tax levy across towns.”
State Aid
In a release sent out last week by New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., he said that Governor David A. Paterson produced a Budget Deficit Reduction proposal calling for $2 billion in budget cuts for 2008-2009 and $3.2 million for the state’s 2009-2010 budget.
The reduction as proposed by the governor and as explained by Thiele would have been a reduction in $162,924 for the Sag Harbor School district and Bridgehampton was expected to see a loss of $73,925. Southampton town would have seen a reduction of $231,650, and East Hampton would see the biggest loss on the South Fork — $246,347.
Of the state legislators, none supported the proposal and no action was taken. A release last week from assemblyman Thiele’s office stated, “The Governor’s meat axe approach to cutting aid to education, local governments and hospitals was ill-considered,” it further added, “The result would have been higher property taxes, loss of essential services and a further economic decline.”
Thiele argued that the state has a rainy day fund with $1.7 billion – which he suggests should be applied to the deficit. Thiele also said that since January 2007, the state bureaucracy has added 6,000 positions. He asked that a retirement incentive be created to reduce the size of the workforce. Thiele also suggests the possibility of a hiring freeze, a freeze on state employee travel, and other small eliminations that could save some dollars.
A statement released on Tuesday from the Governor’s office said Paterson wrote an open letter to New York State school board presidents and district superintendents to notify them that “because the mid-year reductions were not enacted, deeper reductions in education spending will now be required in next year’s budget to close the State’s budget gap,” and that he is notifying them now to allow them to plan accordingly.
“The rejection of a mid-year School Aid reduction by the Legislature means that deeper declines in funding for school districts will now be necessary in 2009-10 to ensure a balanced budget,” Governor Paterson said.

Local Housing Plans Trumped By State?

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Could the state’s Long Island Workforce Housing Act trump more progressive affordable housing plans on the East End, including a plan over a year in the making in Sag Harbor?

According to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr., who is also a village attorney for Sag Harbor, the legislation was drafted as a minimum requirement for municipalities. Currently the law does not expressly state a village or town housing plan can supercede the state law.

 “I just wanted to make sure as we are proposing legislation for inclusionary zoning in our new code,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris on Wednesday, who reached out to Thiele this week for clarity on this concern. “I want to make sure it is consistent with the state legislation and we are not doing something here that could be jeopardized.”

For over a year now, Ferraris has been crafting a Local Residential Housing Plan to address affordable housing in the Village of Sag Harbor to help aid what Ferraris witnessed emerge as one of the most pressing issues facing the East End of Long Island.

The Local Workforce Housing Act proposes to promote second story residential uses in the village business district and incentive and inclusionary zoning provisions in the proposed village zoning code. The village is also exploring legalizing accessory apartments in its draft code as another form of affordable housing and is exploring residential inclusionary zoning requirements as well.

Last month, Ferraris announced the housing plan was gaining steam, as the trust’s board membership began to take shape, and inclusionary zoning provisions appeared to be moving forward in the village’s proposed code. Which was why this week he reached out to Thiele to address the impact of the state legislation on Sag Harbor’s own plan at Tuesday night’s board of trustees meeting.

As Thiele explained the law, it is a bill that has actually been pending for a number of years in the New York State Assembly, although it has now passed the state senate and assembly and was recently signed into law by Governor David Paterson. The law, which applies to subdivisions and site plans for five units (or lots) and more, will become law on January 1, 2009.

For those subdivisions and site plans, the applicant is entitled to a density bonus of at least 10 percent, said Thiele, with those units gained as a result of the density bonus earmarked as affordable. Thiele said there are three choices for how the affordable provision can be met – by providing on-site housing, by building the housing elsewhere, or by paying into an affordable housing fund.

This week, Southampton Town Supervisor Linda Kabot fired off a letter to Thiele, State Senator Ken LaValle and Governor Paterson expressing a number of reservations with the housing legislation, including concerns about how the cash in lieu of housing will present a windfall opportunity for developers on the East End.

Kabot argued since the legislation states the developer can pay either two-times the median income or the appraised value of the lot, whichever is less, on the East End developers stand to make a windfall as two times the median income is less than $200,000 and many lots sell for a million dollars.

Thiele disagreed with part of Kabot’s interpretation of the law, specifically who decides how the affordable housing requirement is met – the developer or a municipality.

“I think it is rather clear cut that the municipality chooses the best [affordable housing] option in each case,” said Thiele on Tuesday, whether it be on-site, off-site or payment into the fund.

In a letter this week in response to Kabot’s myriad concerns regarding the housing trust, Thiele acknowledged the legislation is “far from perfect” and believes a number of amendments are necessary for the law to succeed on the East End.

“I don’t think it will work any place on the East End,” he said on Tuesday, agreeing with Kabot that the way the fee requirement is legislated, a windfall for a developer is likely given the difference between median incomes on the East End and the value of land. Thiele said the impact fee should apply solely to the appraised value of the density bonus or land in order to ensure this windfall does not occur.

On Tuesday night’s meeting Thiele noted a broader question for Sag Harbor is whether or not the state law preempts the proposed village law, or whether it was intended to be a minimum requirement.

“One, I think it is a minimum,” he said. “You have communities out there already that have inclusionary zoning laws … the legislation was enacted because a lot of local governments were doing nothing at all.”

“Our concern is the village’s pending legislation is a little more progressive,” said Ferraris.

The inclusionary zoning requirements proposed by the village exceed the state law’s requirements in that 10 percent affordable housing is required for projects with five units or more without a density bonus. Developers would be able to make a cash in lieu of housing payment into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, but at almost twice the price as the state law mandates.

Thiele agreed it would be nice if the state law specifically had a provision that allowed more progressive housing plans to supercede the state law, but continued to maintain it is not the intent of the law to override more progressive or comprehensive housing programs, but rather to require municipalities doing nothing, do something.

Thiele said he will seek an amendment that makes clear this is a minimum affordable housing requirement and municipalities have the right to enact legislation beyond what the state allows.

“I think it is safe to say we will work with the assemblyman to ensure the village’s legislation will supercede the state’s legislation as it is more progressive,” said Ferraris on Wednesday.