Tax Issues Create Board Scuffle

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Mineola School Board President Artie Barnett
Mineola School Board President Artie Barnett

Tax breaks for the new apartment complexes have Mineola School Board officials alleging they weren’t consulted in cementing long-term tax relief, while influxes of school-aged children could create class size issues and budget planning problems. However, Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss argues that isn’t the case.

“There were numerous hearings held [in Village Hall],” Strauss said. “They were invited. No one representing the school district participated. “I invite the school board to work cooperatively with the village board as we review other projects.”

Strauss, in a letter to the school board, argued the schools would see significant tax revenue from the three rising apartment complexes on Old Country Road. School Board President Artie Barnett felt the school district would be hampered by developers not paying a “fair share” of their tax responsibility. He said the school board does “not want the project to fail.

It would be a disaster if it fails. But we have to be careful. We hope everything works the way [the village] hopes it does.”

Mineola’s downtown is currently undergoing a face-lift that sports a new 36-unit senior housing facility called the Hudson House, the 275-unit Mineola Modera building and the 315-unit apartment complex progressing by Lalezarian Developers. Strauss said the Lalezarian project would generate $25.1 million, the Modera $11.36 million and the Hudson $1.35 million.

Finance Superintendent Jack Waters said he’s been in contact with the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency (IDA). He’s waiting for confirmation of Strauss’ figures.

“We can technically say we were invited, if you want to call a public notice an invitation,” Barnett said. “I don’t know how you do a study on an impact on schools without consulting with the district.”

A fourth 296-unit development, which is planned to have a restaurant, retail place and a village green, is in early design stages.

“I’d like to suggest for the [fourth] building being proposed, that we be represented at any hearings being held,” Barnett said. “I personally think we should voice our objections to residential payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTS.) I don’t believe that’s the intent to give PILOTS to residential buildings.”

PILOT payments negotiated with the IDA for the 315-unit project start at $9,137 in 2015 and increase to $160,220 in the final year in 2034. For Mineola Modera, there’s $68,621.38 in lieu of taxes due next year, with $120,328 due in 2034. Hudson House PILOTS in 2015 and 2034 are $12,471.76 and $21,869.30, respectively.

“I don’t ever recall having a discussion about PILOTS or these buildings nor do I recall seeing a document, study…numbers or anything pertaining to the school district,” District
Superintendent Michael Nagler said. “Is it possible [ Superintendent] Dr. [Larry] Licopli saw it and I didn’t? Yes. Highly unlikely, but possible.”

Barnett argued the buildings would increase student population while hindering the district’s ability to operate under the New York State-imposed 2 percent tax cap.

“The tax cap law does not allow us to count PILOT payments in our equation,” he said. “PILOT payments come off our tax levy equation. Even if we were getting the fair value in taxes as a PILOT, it still hurts us.”

School board trustee Patricia Navarra, is concerned with communities not affected by the growing living quarters.

“This affects the school taxes for five towns and villages,” Navarra said. “It’s easy to say, ‘I don’t live in Mineola,’ but all of us who share a school district ought to be concerned.”

Officials say they plan to attend future hearings on the proposed Second Street complex.

“I have some concerns about the impact it will have on student population,” Barnett said. “I also have concerns about the fact that the Nassau IDA granted them tax abatements. All of those things under a 2 percent tax cap will be volatile for the district. You’re bastardizing the law. This isn’t industrial development. These are apartments. If apartments bring in students and [PILOTS], we’re not getting anywhere near the value here.”

Strauss said studies conducted during pre-production of the current projects suggest otherwise.

“It is estimated that these projects will generate 52 school-aged children, approximately four children per grade and less than a 2 percent increase,” Strauss said. “Far from a significant population the school board is claiming.”

Barnett said the school district’s five day pre-K program could attract young, working parents to the village.

“Five-day pre-K is huge,” Barnett said. “When we rolled out five-day pre-K, the realtors who meet with us annually…they’re downright giddy about [the program]. It’s not taken into account in the [village] study. I have no doubt in my mind.”

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