.

Don't Know or Don't Care?

An Open Letter to Loretta Raimone, Clarkstown's Receiver of Taxes


Dear Loretta: 

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.

Sincerely, 
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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Martin Deane January 08, 2013 at 11:52 AM
Please let us all know how to get the refund, I heard Mr. Gromack state emphatically that the increase was only 6.2% and that he was positive he was correct.
Z January 08, 2013 at 12:21 PM
OMG. Yes, please let us know! What the heck is going on?
Brenda M January 08, 2013 at 12:24 PM
If you check the county tax levy on line 1 it has gone up just over 18% and that's the amount that I see on my bill which is also the amount that the tax thieves in the county announced they would steal from me this year. It appears that county tax thievery on line 1 is honest and the town tax thievery on line 2 is not.
Mike Hirsch January 08, 2013 at 01:26 PM
Another excellent piece Michael, thank you. Maybe your next satire can be titled Are We Coming or Going?
VinnyfromCongers January 08, 2013 at 03:06 PM
There is always a difference in how much the budget goes up versus how much needs to be raised by taxes versus the equalization rate set by the state and your assessed value moving up or down. So, a 6.2% increase has many variables. Some people will go a little lower and the ones that go higher will be told of the variables that are "out of my hands."
John January 08, 2013 at 04:07 PM
Great article! I'll have to check my tax bill tonight, but let us know how this gets resolved!
Donald Schlesinger January 08, 2013 at 06:35 PM
Thanks for your latest tax missive. Keep hammering them! Of course, we're all dismayed by the recent unconscionable increases. It's becoming truly burdensome for seniors to live in Rockland County, in general, and Clarkstown, in particular. With my math background, thought I'd take a look at the numbers to see if I could make sense of anything. Will pass along the following to you, in the event that any of it may be helpful. I'd begin by avowing that the 6.2% seems not to show up anywhere. If it was applied to any assessment whatsoever, I don't see it. But, the confusion between the 7.48% and the higher 7.66% that you discuss in your article seems to be explainable. First, let's begin by noting that the total COUNTY tax levy (amount of taxes actually collected in the aggregate) went up a disgraceful 18.43%, as noted on line 1 of the bill. But, you will notice that the actual RATE (per $1,000), to the right, increased by (8.257075 - 6.978614) - 1 = 18.32%, which is also the actual increase of your tax amount for that line, provided that your assessed value remained unchanged, which I assume was the case for everyone.
Donald Schlesinger January 08, 2013 at 06:36 PM
(continued) Note that, interestingly enough, the actual percentage value of assessment was increased a quarter of a percent, from 32.25% to 32.50%, but that this was exactly offset by a reduction in the full market assessment of your house (at least MY house), such that the taxable assessed value on which all taxes are based remained unchanged. I assume that this was some sort of bookkeeping adjustment that does not affect actual taxes paid by the individual. Now, this same process applies to line 2, the TOWN tax. As noted, the total levy (actual taxes collected) did go up by 7.48%. But, the rate per $1,000 went up by more -- the 7.66% that you quote in your article. I can only assume, therefore, that although my assessed value remained unchanged, this was not the case for everyone. Finally, as is quite clear, the total bottom line increase for an individual's town taxes can vary according to the STAR discounts received and the assessed value of the property (specifically, whether it has changed or not). In my case -- and the only thing that really matters to me in the end -- is that I will be paying 8.53% more in town taxes this year, compared to last year. I suspect that this number is different for everyone, but suffice it to say that I am disgusted by this substantial hike.
Lesley January 08, 2013 at 08:57 PM
Well said! Great read.....Thanks for being fearless (and good at old math)
Watchdog January 08, 2013 at 09:08 PM
Mike, You may never know the answer to that question as long as you continue to mix Viagra into your Metamucil.
Mike Hirsch January 08, 2013 at 10:33 PM
I guess I am getting old. It took me awhile to get that one.
Mike Hirsch January 08, 2013 at 10:34 PM
You should form a citizen group called the Disgusted Taxpayers.
Maureen January 08, 2013 at 11:53 PM
You know what they say rolls downhill! The county, going broke with a near junk bond status, continued to deficit spend even with its outstanding debt - it raised taxes by 18% and shifted the rest of the costs it couldn't finance down to the towns. Clarkstown, going broke, continued to deficit spend even with its outstanding debt - it raised taxes by something close to 7.5% and shifted the rest of the costs it couldn't finance down to the school board. The school board, going broke, needs to deficit spend even with its outstanding debt - it raised taxes 3% and shifted the costs along to the people buried underneath all of this shifting.
frankie g January 09, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Let us all not forget a history lesson here. When Mr. Gromack first started up his kingdom at the end of 2004. From 2005 - 2009 he raised our taxes a whopping 26.89% Of course he never makes mention of that part of his past while he is patting himself on the back at State of the Town addresses. He only quotes the low rates2010,2011 and 2012 years when the Clarkstown Taxpayers came on the scene and began to hold him accountable. Also the Tax strategy changed then to Deficit spending and continues on to this day. Now he may think,we are no longer a threat and can use the excuse of blaming others for his overspending on everything from million dollar walking trails to $1,000.00 dollar park benches and Rolls Royce Downtown makeovers, with bronzed Gromack plaques to enshrine his name all over town and remind us for eternity how good he was at spending our money we don't have yet . It's an election year folks. Do you want to return to his good old days of Tax and now bond with deficit spending.? Plan a couple hours a month and show up for a town board meeting and tell them how you really feel. It,s the least you should do
Smitty Chesterfield January 09, 2013 at 05:11 AM
I called loretta for an explanation and all she said was "i can't math"
Maureen January 09, 2013 at 12:06 PM
Smitty .... apparently Duer the controller "can't math" either! This Gromack administration is too tired, too old, and too incompetent to be allowed to continue. Once I see appointments being made in an administration that raise eyebrows in the press (Savino, Sparaco) you know that Gromack's time to go has come. Bad things are going to happen if this is permitted to continue. There are two repubs and three dems on this board and they vote in unison like automatons. The Rockland Times says this is because they are all controlled by the Conservative party head - Ed Lettre - and no one gets to vote him out. Lettre is employed at our expense! Read these: http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/08/09/house-of-horrors/ http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/09/13/legal-watch-recent-clarkstown-stories-highlight-need-for-transparency-in-government/ http://www.rocklandtimes.com/2012/08/30/house-of-horrors-story-spooks-town-board/
Michael N. Hull January 09, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Hi Don: Thank you for your math expertise. I see that this is your first comment in Patch. Welcome aboard and I look forward to further inputs in the future.
James Flynn January 10, 2013 at 11:20 AM
Donald the difference between the 7.5% (7.48%) town tax levy increase and the 7.66% ACTUAL TAX INCREASE ON OUR BILLS is caused by the shift in total taxable property value between commercial and residential. This is normally very minimal just like this year (2.406%) it usually ranges 1-3%.
Maureen January 10, 2013 at 12:36 PM
If the actual increase is 7.66% and the Board voted to raise the town tax by 6.2% is the bill illegal and can it be ignored until the town sends out the correct bill? So far all I have seen is that the receiver of taxes "doesn't do math".
frankie g January 10, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Maureen, Your previous comment on Lettre being employed at our expense,comes at a cost to us. Compensation to him,approaching 1/4 million dollars is now affirmed in the new Salary Schedule by our entire Town Board. Career politicians cost of doing business by using our tax monies to buy party lines, Sadly has been taking place for too many years .Lettre's bill for his service to them,Paid in Compensation and numerous Perks,has been Six figures for well over a decade now.
fred January 11, 2013 at 01:21 AM
Why doesn't anyone call gromack on 1300 am Monday morning at 815am and ask him. I went down to town hall today to inquire about my tax bill and they told me its only a little percentage the county tax is the big one.nice answer I got
Martin Deane January 11, 2013 at 12:35 PM
The scariest part is that Mr Gromack and Mr. Duer have put $12-15 million of Pension Payments onto the Towns Credit Card with the State. They have not made the full payment since Alex took office. If our Financial Geniuses had paid the full bill the increase would have been 15% this year. These type of shennanigans let them justify giving themselves raises year after year. At least its fair, They only earn 70-100% more than their equivalents in Orangetown.
Maureen January 11, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Are you surprised? This article should have been titled "They Don't Care". They are bringing in their crony friends at our expense voted on with what I understand is a legally incorrect resolution. From what I understand when the problem of the improper resolution was made known to the board not one of the council members asked to have the full resolution read to them so they could understand what they were voting on. Unbelievable. Now they are sending us bills that are both outrageous and possibly inflated to their advantage while giving everyone in the town, including themselves, raises that no one else is getting outside of local government and at the same time passing the bills they are creating on our behalf off to a future generation when they are all gone to retirement in Florida. The pension payments fiasco is a shell game or a Ponzi scheme but it is not prudent use of taxes. The Main Street of New City can no longer be plowed because of all the fancy looking parking spaces that many of us can't back a car into. They need employees with shovels to clean out the snow. You can bet that adds up to big overtime. Can anyone tell me if the bill for the town tax is legal or illegal? What is the legal basis for Raimone to send out these bills if taxes are raised more than the 6.2% the board approved. Maybe, like the resolution to hire the bronx chairman, none of them bothered to look at it.

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