An article in today’s Observer Dispatch, Street lighting charges surge in New Hartford district, this time focused on errors in the Town of New Hartford lighting districts.
Previous articles have already been written in the Observer Dispatch regarding the problems in the sewer districts. Non-profits are exempt from operation and maintenance charges for all districts; however, the town has been taxing non-profits for these expenses.
All the problems in the assessment database are symptomatic of a lack of database knowledge and a lack of knowledge of how the information in the database is used to create tax bills. Neither the previous assessor nor the town board understands just how the assessment database works and what is needed to maintain the integrity of a database. Yet, your tax bill is created using the information contained in the Town of New Hartford assessment database. Everyone has heard the phrase “garbage in, garbage out”. It definitely applies in this case.
The town has been improperly reporting the expenses for all sewer and lighting districts for many years. That affects not only not-for-profits, but everyone in a sewer or lighting district because some people have been paying more than their share of district charges and others have paid less or none at all.
According to the OD article:
Town Supervisor Patrick Tyksinski said he wasn’t unaware of any issues or changes. “Right now, we don’t know what it is,” he said. “Darlene (Abbattecola, town assessor) does not know what occurred and why it occurred, but we’re working on it.”We are amazed that Supervisor Tyksinski would make such a statement considering the fact that we have been sending memos to the town board since last February detailing the problems with the sewer and lighting district taxes.
What happened is that after discovering that we were right regarding the sewer district errors Supervisor Tyksinski actually sent the correct information to the county for all districts this year including the lighting districts. Therefore, the program used to run the tax bills did what it was supposed to do…exempted not-for-profits from paying lighting district charges. Unfortunately, an unintended consequence was that the by exempting the non-profits, a heavier tax burden had to be placed on properties that are not exempt in order for the town to collect all the budgeted money for the lighting districts!
The program used by the county to run the town tax bills requires two expense figures for each district; operation and maintenance and capital expense. The town has only been giving the county one figure and the program has ‘assumed’ it to be a capital expense rather than an operation/maintenance charge. Therefore, non-profits were sent tax bills for district charges!
While it may have been unintentional on the part of the town, it was foreseen and could have been properly addressed if the town board took our July 2013 email seriously. But as usual, they refuse to include us in discussions. Now, according to the resolution passed at the last town board meeting, they have hired an attorney that will cost up to $5,000 to advise them regarding the database problems.
Here is our July memo that addresses several issues including the lighting districts. Included at the end of the memo is a list of non-profits that have been erroneously charged lighting district taxes prior to this year.
These lighting district and sewer district charges are just the tip of the iceberg. All sewer district users have been overtaxed because of the failure of the town to correct deficiencies in the database even after we repeatedly sent emails asking for the corrections.
Before paying our 2014 Town and County taxes, we sent a letter of protest to the town board regarding the sewer charges on our 2014 town tax bill. The letter pretty well covers the problems with the way sewer district charges are being levied on parcels in the Consolidated Sewer District.