Bryan Burrell of the Rockland County School Boards Association thanked the Clarkstown Town Board on Tuesday night for rescinding the one percent surcharge on school property taxes for the 2013-2014 school year. Then he criticized the board for imposing the collection fee in the first place and the way it was handled.
“What I would like is a promise that you will never impose it again,” said Burrell, the association’s executive director.
The one percent surcharge was added to the 2012-2013 school tax bills of Clarkstown residents whose property is within the Clarkstown, Nanuet, Nyack and East Ramapo school districts. Town officials blamed Rockland County government for forcing them to seek additional revenue. Rockland shifted costs for the Board of Elections, Rockland Community College chargebacks and Rockland County Police Narcotics and Intel Task Forces to Clarkstown and the other towns in the county.
The additional amount was listed on bills as a “processing fee” with no further nation or advance notice provided to taxpayers. The surcharge brings in more than $1.5 million.
Burrell said property owners probably viewed the fee as another part of the tax bill. He said it was “unjustifiable.”
Town Supervisor Alex Gromack, who previously served as a state assembly member, said he was not aware that Burrell had spoken at any of the other Rockland towns, which charge a processing fee. According to the association’s web site, Burrell did speak before the Orangetown Town Board in November 2011 when it voted to impose a one-eighth of one percent surcharge on school taxes. New York State allows municipalities to charge up to one percent for the collection of school property taxes.
Clarkstown officials said on Friday, the surcharge was a “one-time” fee and they had no plans to impose it in the future. They said since the county passed along the costs after the 2012 budget was in place, they had to look for another revenue source to pay the additional estimated $2 million in expenses for this year. Gromack said the town board might have to pass the surcharge waiver every year at the annual reorganization meeting.