Today's editorial in the Observer Dispatch has left some people asking why do we care? The New Hartford School Foundation is a private foundation.
First of all, they are not a private foundation...there is a big difference between a private foundation and a community foundation. The New Hartford School Foundation is a community foundation. They raise their funds by soliciting contributions from the community-at-large.
Why would we care if the school foundation and the school blindly accept a donation of real estate from some "connected donors"?
For the answer, let's look at how another well-known foundation in New York State handles their donations of real estate; Tompkins County Community Foundation.
Here are the requirements for donation of real estate according to information on their website [we used red print to highlight some of the requirements New Hartford taxpayers should be concerned with]:
Such gifts will be reviewed by staff, legal counsel, and the Board of Directors of the Foundation. Concerns include legality, mortgages, easements, restrictions, and environmental problems. They donor must provide for obligations such as taxes and insurance. In considering the acceptance of real estate donations, the Foundation may ask that the following items be provided:
• Exact legal name of donor and federal I.D. number
• Description of property
• Description of any buildings or other structures located on the land
• Boundary survey of property with location of all structures, easements, and encumbrances appearing on the face of the survey
• Information regarding existing zoning status
• Information on all ingress/egress for the property
• Description of prior use of the property
• Description of use of surrounding property, with specific disclosure of any storage tanks or potential environmental factors affecting the property
• Disclosure of any contemplated or anticipated condemnations, rights-of-way, or other actions by municipalities that might affect the subject property
• Phase I environmental report on the property, including environmental report on any structures located on the real estate
• Specimen of title insurance commitment or schedule describing any liens, encumbrances, or title matters affecting the property
• Copy of an appraisal showing the fair market of the property current within 180 days
• Discussion with proposed donor regarding any special arrangements for donor’s fund or other sources to address ongoing expenses for taxes, insurance, assessments, maintenance, grass cutting, security, utilities, etc.
• Specimen of proposed Seller’s Affidavit disclosing any and all tenants, leases, security instruments, graves, or cemetery parcels, etc.
• Draft of proposed Warranty Deed conveying title from proposed donor to Community Foundation.
How about the zoning, is the Foundation and now the school aware of any zoning restrictions?
What was the property formerly used for...was there any dumping of toxic waste material on that site by the O.W. Hubbell Company? Did the foundation and the school just accept a piece of land that might turn out to be another Scully Toxic Waste Dump leaving the residents of the New Hartford School District to foot the bill for any clean-up?
How about an environmental report? What happens if the future development creates damage to homes below the proposed park due to stormwater run-off after the development of the property? Who will be liable for remediation and/or damages?
If there was no appraisal, how did the New Hartford Foundation know what value to put on the receipt given to the donors? We can be quite certain that the donors were expecting a tax write-off for the donation. A written disclosure statement of the value of the gift must be offered to a donor who makes a contribution payment exceeding $75. The value of the gift will offset the donor’s tax deduction of his/her contribution.
Furthermore, for the foundation to say that an appraisal was done, but they no longer have a copy goes against Records Retention requirements; the records of the Foundation have to be kept for a specified period of time just like the records of any other agency. If they gave the donors a receipt for a donation of land, we would guess that they would need something in their files to back up the value given for the tax deduction receipt.
Why should taxpayers in the New Hartford Central School District be concerned? Probably for the same reason that the New Hartford School Foundation and the New Hartford Central School Board should have been concerned if they were doing their 'due diligence'.
And we haven't even begun to list the Conflict of Interest issues regarding some of the members of the New Hartford Central School Board and the New Hartford School Foundation "serving two masters".
One other thing, the school foundation comes under the New York State Freedom of Information Law because the school foundation only serves the New Hartford Central School; a government agency that is FOILable.
Concerned Citizens cares...do you?
By the way, anyone seen Dan Gilligan lately? Didn't he move out of the area where none of these potential problems will affect him now or in the future?