This wasn't the first time that Ms. Lawrence brought this to the attention of the town. This past August, Ms. Lawrence met with Town Attorney Herb Cully and Town Assessor Paul Smith to discuss problems in the assessment database. Apparently, that discussion fell on "deaf ears", because lo and behold when Ms. Lawrence looked at the 2012 budget, she could tell that the error had not been corrected.
One of the things Ms. Lawrence tried to explain to Attorney Cully and Assessor Smith back in August was the double-billing error in the Clinton Street Sewer District. Attorney Cully asked Assessor Smith to bring it to Supervisor Tyksinski's attention and resolve the issue as necessary.
The problem initially occurred when it was brought to the town's attention that people in Woodberry were not being charged sewer maintenance fees at all even though they were supposedly added to the Consolidated Sewer District years ago.
Supervisor Tyksinski apparently thought that the same was true for the Clinton Street Sewer District, but supposedly when the problem was brought to the County who prints the town tax bills, they said it was too late to make the adjustment in the assessment database so to correct the problem Supervisor Tyksinski just increased the ad valorem fees [charge per thousand of assessed value] for the parcels in the Clinton Street Sewer District.
So for the 2011 Town Tax Bill instead of paying about $.40 per thousand to retire their debt for constructing the sewer lines, they were taxed $.80 per thousand; $.40 to retire debt and $.40 ad valorem.
Trouble is, the parcels in the Clinton Street Sewer District already actually were being charged the $.40 ad valorem maintenance fees as part of the Consolidated Sewer District because the correct sewer codes were placed on each parcel at the time the district was created. Of course, Ms. Lawrence would know that to be true because she has access to the assessment database through FOIL and she is able to use the information in the database to create reports.
Trying one more time to correct the error, Ms. Lawrence spoke at tonight's Public Hearing for the 2012 Town Budget on behalf of the taxpayers in the Clinton Street Sewer District:
However, Supervisor Tyksinski said they were being charged the correct sewer maintenance fee and acted as if Ms. Lawrence was wrong rather than accept the fact that perhaps a mistake had been made. "I fixed the problem", said Supervisor Tyksinski. "What is your definition of ad valorem?" he asked as if Ms. Lawrence just fell off the turnip truck earlier that day and had no idea what she was talking about.
So Ms. Lawrence, knowing full well she was right and realizing that some people are just too bull-headed to listen and accept the fact that they are sometimes wrong...decided to just keep quiet, although she had many more questions to ask regarding the proposed 2012 budget.
As an example of the overcharge to the Clinton Street sewer users, here is the 2010 tax bill for Marquee, the movie theater in The Orchards, before Supervisor Tyksinski "fixed" the problem:
Click here for a pdf with larger print
Looking at the above tax bill, SEWER CHARGES for 2010:
SW073 - the unit charge for sewers is $20.00
SW074 - the ad valorem charge for sewers is $1,408.42
SW083 - the debt reduction payment is $2,571.92
Total 2010 Sewer Charges for The Marquee - $4,000.34
Now let's look at the 2011 town tax bill for the Marquee...after Supervisor Tyksinski "fixed" it:
Looking at the above tax bill, SEWER CHARGES for 2011:
Click here for a pdf with larger print
SW073 - the unit charge is $20.00
SW074 - the ad valorem charge for sewers is $2,833.41
SW083 - the debt reduction payment is $5,132.16
Total 2011 Sewer Charges - $7,985.57, almost double the previous year's total of $4,000.34.
Actual 2010 Adopted Budget - Sewer Maintenance Tax - $20 unit charge and $.4019 ad valorem
Actual 2011 Adopted Budget - Sewer Maintenance Tax - $20 unit charge and $.4402 ad valorem; a slight increase per thousand; however the debt payment should have decreased slightly also.
So for both 2010 and 2011, the same unit charge has been budgeted [$20] and basically the same ad valorem [charge per thousand of assessed value] has been budgeted and there is no change in the assessed value of the property and yet The Marquee paid almost double the sewer maintenance fees in 2011 than they did in 2010. Now how could that be...it's mathematically impossible. And that's only one parcel in The Orchards...the rest of the parcels in the Clinton Street Sewer District are also overcharged for Sewer Maintenance Fees.
The same problem is going to surface when the 2012 Town Tax bills are prepared because the "fix" was never needed in the first place.
Supervisor Tyksinski said they will look at it...sure, just like they did in August. Oh well, Ms. Lawrence tried....
However, there may be some poetic justice and irony in all this...most of the parcels that are in the Clinton Street Sewer District are businesses, like the 99 Restaurant, the Marquee, Kohl's and other stores in the The Orchards managed by Cameron Group, LLC.
Supervisor Tyksinski, you didn't fix the problem...you f**cked it up! What's Larry gonna say?