I'm sorry to bother you again as I did last year when I wrote to Patch complaining that your relatively innocuous and seemingly non-threatening phrase "without penalty" on my tax bill reminded me that:
“Taxation is just a sophisticated way of demanding money with menaces.”
Regrettably, I must write again this year for you see something is going horribly wrong when I try to apply the mathematics I learned at school to your tax calculations. I realize that schools are now teaching 'new math' and that probably explains the arithmetical conundrum with which I am faced.
The new tax bill that you have sent me - which explains in detail everything I am paying - has explanations beyond all of my understanding.
Let me explain.....
In January 2012 you sent me a bill which, at your request, I did pay "without penalty" by the deadline of January 31, 2012. That bill showed my Town tax on line 2 was $3,333.17.
The Town tax bill for 2013 arrived by mail this morning with your remonstrance that I must pay the amount due before the end of the month if I wish to avoid your "penalty." I promise to do so. However, I am confused as to what amount I should pay.
You see the amount shown on line 2 for the 2013 Town tax is $3,588.48. You indicate in your explanation that this is an increase of 7.48% over the 2012 amount. I looked at my Total Tax Levy which was 85,181,425 in 2012 and is now 91,550,230 for 2013 and my 'old math' agrees that my tax levy has indeed increased by this enormous amount. The strange thing is that my bill of $3,588.48 has increased by $255.31 over last year which is an equally enormous 7.66% increase.
Loretta, $255.31 is more than the down payment on the first car I bought in Rockland County.
While $255.31 might seem to be a minor amount to you, I live on social security and in 2013 will get a 1.7% increase from the U.S. Government. I used my 'old math' to check the Federal government's numbers as to the dollar amount they will send and their claim that it will be a 1.7% increase. The numbers checked out perfectly and so I am confident that my 'old math' is at least as good as that used by the Department of Social Security.
But Loretta, it doesn’t tell me on the Town tax bill how an approved 6.2% increase by the Town Board became your 7.48% increase or my 7.66% increase.
Do you know? …
Over the past year I have tried - unsuccessfully I might add - to calculate, much less understand, how the Supervisor and his Board produced the Town's budget numbers.
New City Patch reported that the Board unanimously voted to override the State’s 2% property tax cap and to put into place a budget for 2013 that would increase my taxes by 6.2%.
I am sure you now realize that the calculation using 'old math' showing my Town tax has increased by 7.66% indicates you have sent me a bill 23.5% higher that what the Town Board discussed in a public hearing and approved in a formal vote.
Loretta, you were not there when, during two hours of that public hearing, my colleague, Tom Nimick, went through the budget line by line with Mr. Duer, the comptroller, trying to figure it all out. Sadly, Duer did not seem to know the answers to most of the questions he was asked - he had to constantly 'outsource' a response to his junior staff who trotted up from the bowels of the room to assist him. I'm sure some of them were wondering why the comptroller is being paid over $170,000 per year to sit next to the Town Board while people being paid less than half of that amount had to answer these questions from the floor.
Duer, even though he is my age, should be able to figure out that 6.2% in the 'old math' is not equal to 7.66% in 'any known’ math!
Loretta, I was sorry to hear that will be retiring soon because you are being 'consolidated' out of your job. You have done a good job as the Town’s Tax Collector even though your extortion threats using 'penalties' have been mentally torturous to me. One of your colleagues, Marsha Coopersmith, was consolidated out of her job just over a year ago in order that the Town could bring in the head of the Bronx Republican Party in a patronage position last year at $87,000.
Have you seen her since she left? I hope she is well. Tell her that a couple of weeks ago her replacement, Jay Savino, got a 2% raise and the numbers the Town Board produced then agreed perfectly well with my 'old math' in his case even though the resolution that the Board voted on unanimously to employ him verged on legal hysteria for those who had actually looked at the document. The Town Attorney, Amy Mele, removed a 'whereas' but still she couldn't fix it so they just voted on it anyway.
I hope the same will not happen to your job as you are shown the door but, if it does, before you go would you please train your patronage successor in the 'old math' that most seniors like me understand. The Town's use of 'new math' is just 'fuzzy math' to me.
Anyway, I digress, but that is because I have been so unsuccessful in using my 'old math' with the Town Board to probe its rationale for raising my taxes. Sadly, my repeated efforts usually launch Mr. Gromack into a monolog during which he frequently uses the word 'certainly'.
‘Certainly’, certainly gives me dizzy spells causing people to wonder if imbibing too much of this certainty has put me into a state of 'intaxication'.
Have you heard that an elected official called me an idiot in public last year? Loretta, even though I suffer from ‘intaxication’, I can assure you that ‘idiocy’ is not among one my numerous elderly conditions though ‘uppitiness’ may be. I have proof - you see back in High School, when I was 14, my English teacher said that "only an idiot would not know the difference between 'tortuous' and 'torturous'. To her surprise I did! I went one better and asked her if she knew the difference between ‘Climactic’ and ‘Climatic’. She didn't! So she sent me to the principal’s office for being ‘uppity’.
Sorry, Loretta, but seniors like myself sometimes wander off the topic. However, with the question about my idiocy having been settled nearly 60 years ago may I ask if Mr. Gromack told you that he had already collected 1.2% of the Town tax bill when he put a surcharge on my school tax bill last Fall? That action nearly caused a riot at the Clarkstown School Board because when they looked at the numbers and applied their 'new math' it turned out that his “surcharge” was a million and a half bucks and climbing. Supervisor Gromack sent this previously passive and non-contentious School Board into a period of violent fulminations only alleviated by his promise not to try that stunt again.
That was all well and good, but the fact is that he didn't give back the money he took from me as he promised when he put the 'charge' on my school bill.
Maybe you didn't know about the school tax surcharge and have therefore double charged me for part of my taxes? You see if you take the amount I paid in the school tax ’surcharge fee’, it is about 1.2% of my Town tax, and subtract it from the 7.48% increase you are claiming I owe you (without penalty) for this year then we both get back to the 6.2% that the Board voted on.
May I ask how the U.S. Government can correctly calculate my meagre 1.7% increase in my social security benefits for next year and how Supervisor Gromack can calculate the police raises correctly at 2.5% per year for the next five years and how he can calculate his own raise at 2% next year correctly but when it comes to calculating whether I have to pay 6.2% or 7.66% extra to satisfy my tax obligations and pay for these salary increases it's 'fuzzy math' time.
Do you care? …
Mr. Gromack told me that: "The $1.5 million RAISED from the school tax fee would not be a burden on taxpayers because the Town would end up LOWERING Town taxes for the coming year. In other words, while the school taxes would INCREASE, homeowners’ share of Town taxes would DECREASE. A $1.5 million INCREASE in revenue would allow the Town to LOWER its tax rate by 2 percent. This is money that is COMING from town residents and GOING back to town residents in tax relief.”
Loretta, that's what he said - even my dog understood him and my dog is an idiot – I know that because it doesn’t understand the difference between ‘fetch’ and ‘get’.
So I figured that when I opened my tax bill this morning I would see that the amount I owe (without penalty, of course) would be less than the 6.2% the Board voted to approve - not more!
Loretta, if Churchill had lived in Clarkstown he might have remarked that when it comes to the school surcharge tax reduction "never has so little been waited for by so many for so long". I hope you understand my allusion to Churchill because Churchill would instantly see that the Supervisor's school surcharge 'tax relief' was not an ‘allusion’ but an ‘illusion’.
Please review my tax bill and explain how a 7.66% increase when using my ‘old math’ is really a 7.48% increase when using your ‘new math’ which is a 6.2% increase when using the Town’s ‘fuzzy math’.
Although the ‘good book’ tells me that where taxes are concerned "it is better to give than to deceive", I don't know whether I am 'coming' or 'going' with Mr. Gromack's "tax relief". It seems that what I get he fetches.
If ever I see the ghost of Patrick Henry I will explain to him what taxation with representation is really like because by the time I finish paying my property taxes the only thing I am ‘certainly’ going to have left is Supervisor Gromack’s receipt.
Michael N. Hull
Michael N. Hull is a member of the Clarkstown Taxpayers Group the goals of which are to reduce local taxes and local government expenses and make local government and local public officials more responsible and accountable to the citizenry.