UPDATE: School District Brings Surcharge Complaints To Town Board (VIDEO)

Clarkstown’s addition of a one percent surcharge to tax bills angers school district officials


Clarkstown Board of Education President Joe Malgieri said the town’s unexpected addition of a to school tax bills makes next year’s budget even more difficult.  The district kept to a two percent tax increase for residents but the town’s addition of a one percent collection fee brings the total increase to three percent. 

“Because two percent for us becomes three percent for the taxpayer which means we have to look at keeping our tax base, our tax levy somewhere in the one percent range so the taxpayers are only seeing two percent,” said Malgieri. “It really hinders our capability to pass a school budget next year.”

The town will be keeping the added one percent surtax to offset the costs being passed along to it by Rockland County.  The tax bill, which residents and businesses began receiving on Saturday, does not include an explanation just notes “Processing Fee” and the amount.

Clarkstown Assistant Superintendent for Business, Facilities & Fiscal Management John LaNave said school district officials spent a year explaining the budget and its two percent increase at senior citizen and PTA meetings. But when those residents open their bills, they will not see that two percent increase that stayed under the state property tax cap but a three percent increase. LaNave said voters would not support a budget next with a two percent increase and an additional one percent for the town’s benefit.

“I have no alternative but to try and spend the next year looking for some other way to get our school taxes collected and do it in a way that’s a lot more economical than the $1.5 million in processing fee that you folks are adding to the tax bill,” said LaNave.

Town Supervisor Alex Gromack explained that town officials started in May to look at the surcharge as a way of raising revenue.  The discussions included the receiver of taxes, town board members, controller and town attorney. Since the town board had not passed a resolution waiving Clarkstown’s ability to impose the surcharge, it was put into place without requiring a board vote.  

Although Gromack said he notified three superintendents out of the four whose districts, which are impacted by the surcharge, LaNave criticized the town’s handling of the fee.

“This change was done without any school board meeting, any communication with the people who voted for our budget, who took our word,” LaNave said. “And now they open the envelope and now two percent is now three percent.”

Parent and Congers resident Phil Leiter said he was extraordinarily disappointed with the town’s action to charge the collection tax and described the decision to charge the maximum fee permitted by state law as “underhanded.” He pointed out that Gromack said he was “appalled” when the county announced it was passing some of its costs onto the towns because of its budget deficit.

Gromack said the town had to find a way to maintain its revenue stream and pay for the shift of county expenses that were not included in this year’s budget. Costs such as tuition for out of county student attending a community college Rockland and for the board of elections are being passed to the towns.

“(We’re) Already up to about $2 million in costs in 2012 that we will have to absorb,” said Gromack predicting it could reach $3 million in 2013.

When Malgieri suggested the school district could begin to charge the town for use of its school building, Gromack proposed the two sides meet to find ways to continue working together.

Clarkstown residents and business whose properties fall within the Nanuet, Nyack and East Ramapo have also been charged the processing fee. 

Editor's Note: The town's receiver of taxes says state law requires the one percent fee to be collected within 30 days or the month of September. According to the law, the one percent collection fee is waived for those paying their school taxes in October, because they are assessed a late payment penalty of five percent on their bill. Although a large percentage of the school taxes are paid in September, no specific figure for 2011 was available. 

Joe Ciardullo September 05, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Gromack will not address ANY cuts in the budget. He sees this as a 1.5 million dollar revenue increase so he can continue the business as usual. It's time for him to go. He was so outspoken on the county passing costs, yet he did the exact same thing to the school district, with us the ATM's, I mean taxpayers, picking up the tab as usual.
Tom September 05, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Let me pay my school tax directly to the Clarkstown school district or at least give me that option. That way I would not have to pay this 1% surcharge fee.
WP September 05, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Can't we take some of the deficit out of the politicians salaries or maybe the mall with their big tax break. No its us that has to pay. Unbelievable...maddening that the money does not even help our schools or I imagine since its a "processing" fee it does nothing for the community either!
Mike Hirsch September 05, 2012 at 12:58 PM
The 1% surcharge in Clarkstown is 8 times the surcharge in Orangetown. If only Andy Stewart would move to Clarkstown and run against Alex in a primary. It is time for the Clarkstown Democratic Party to step up and become a party of the people.
Joe Ciardullo September 05, 2012 at 01:01 PM
This is another example of Alex's leadership. He is basically stating that it costs $80 per taxpayer (household or business) to send a tax bill. There is the real problem. Do you think visa, mastercard, amex, or your local bank spend $80 per bill? I agree with some others, if a reasonable charge of say $5, was added, then we would not complain, but $80. It's just another way for them to get more revenue, without having to do what we really need, and that is to cut the budget, which, unfortunately may mean layoffs.
Deejay September 05, 2012 at 01:02 PM
When Malgieri suggested the school district could begin to charge the town for use of its school building, Gromack proposed the two sides meet to find ways to continue working together." There ya go. Charging the town for building and pool use should even things up a bit.
J H September 05, 2012 at 01:08 PM
"Town Supervisor Alex Gromack explained that town officials started in May to look at the surcharge as a way of raising revenue." Doesn't that say it all????
commonsense September 05, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Thank you Mr. Gromack. You have now engaged the school taxpayer. If you paid any attention to the Clarkstown school district happenings of the last few years then you know how important our schools are and how involved the parents are. We do not like wasting money that should be used for the advancement of the students. Every penny counts in Clarkstown Schools. Your new 1.5 million fee taken from the schools and our children is surely an easy and cavalier option to raise revenue.
Marilyn Klubenspies September 05, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Aha!! But all these costs, County, Town, School...you name it...did not stop Gromack from demanding that his Councilmen/women take a salary increase of 1% or more (based on CSEA contract increases.... "because I am retiring soon and I need to increase MY salary...." (for the benefit of his retirement package). Drill those 'honest' council members!!! When Gromack goes around preaching to civic organizations how...."he cut costs, did not increase budgets. etc......" DO YOU BELIEVE HIM??? How about I sell you the TZ Bridge?!! Hogwash!!!!!
and they give gromacks buddy the clerk of da works a raise????????????????? what about the employee under the clerk of da works job performance?????no one was home miding the store...clarksclown is rusting away!!!!! no one I know would ever move here........what a sink hole... ALSO ALMOST ALLPAYMENTS TODAY ARE DONE ELECTRONICALLY. THIS SCAM IS AN INJUSTICE
Jonathan Swift September 05, 2012 at 05:19 PM
The public came out in full force during the last School Board election and voted 3 new members on due to the disgust with the way the old board operated. Gromack sure has engaged the school taxpayer with this slick trick. Now the focus is on the Town Board and not the School Board. The School Board should immediately research what facilities the district allows the Town to use. Then it needs to charge the Town a facilities usage fee for everything they currently don't pay for. Kudos to Mr. Leiter for being a voice of reason in the community.
Craig S. September 05, 2012 at 07:25 PM
This should be the next step - the school districts are furious, rightfully so - and I would fully support any endeavor they seek to collect school taxes on their own, after all the $ SHOULD be going right to the schools anyway - no need for the town's sticky fingers to touch it.
Craig S. September 05, 2012 at 07:26 PM
how bout when the town election board takes over all the schools too - why not let the school district charge them rent for use of the facilities.
ADK September 05, 2012 at 07:40 PM
I wholeheartedly agree with the outrageous behavior of the Town...however, a tit for tat increase in school usage will only hurt the taxpayer...the town will simply pass on the fee to us in one form or another...
Jonathan Swift September 05, 2012 at 11:26 PM
This maneuver by the Town was done in a deceptive manner. Period. Even if we can't charge facilities fees because it will come right back to us, we certainly CAN and WILL remember this when elections come next year. We have a new School Board and we will have a new Town Board. Enough is enough in Clarkstown!
amy durbin September 06, 2012 at 10:27 AM
I will be paying my school taxes minus the surcharge. Obviously the tax collecting department makes too much money if it takes 1.5 million to collect taxes once a year.
Robin Traum (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 11:11 AM
Amy The problem with doing that is if you don't pay the surcharge it could be considered a late payment and assessed the late fee of five percent. You should check it out before making that decision. Robin
Deejay September 06, 2012 at 12:31 PM
Maybe. Then make the facilities a little "less" available. Gromack started a war here and Gromack can end it.
Jonathan Swift September 06, 2012 at 01:53 PM
How refreshing to have a Board of Education President who truly acts on behalf of the taxpayers. At the very first meeting that Mr. Malgieri presided over as President he discussed the exorbitant amount of the contract between the district and district counsel Warren Berbit and requested that the district look into it further. Now Mr. Malgieri attends a Town Board meeting to express outrage over the way Mr. Gromack slipped a 1% tax into school taxpayers' bills. The man has been President for 2 months and already he has taken charge!
Mike Hirsch September 06, 2012 at 02:48 PM
Excellent point Town Board Observer. Maybe Joe Malgieri should run for Town Supervisor after his term as School Board President expires.
Robin Traum (Editor) September 06, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Needin Formation I want to clarify a few points. Clarkstown School Superintendent Dr. Morton was informed of the surcharge while he was being introduced to the town and given a several hours long tour. The one percent surcharge is not being imposed to offset the actual cost of collecting the school taxes, it has been put into place to generate more revenue for the town. Clarkstown is trying to raise money to pay the costs that Rockland County is shifting such as chargebacks for community college tuition and Board of Elections expenses. Robin
commonsense September 06, 2012 at 03:45 PM
Gromack has decided to take money out of our pockets because he needs more revenue so that Sparaco and Lettre and whoever he needs can have overpaid town jobs. We are on to it. We get it. It's all about me. He said the town attorney said he could do it. I'd watch my back if I were Mele.
Kim Tran September 06, 2012 at 04:10 PM
Alex Gromack will be at the Nanuet Civic Association meeting tonight to field questions about this. http://nanuet.patch.com/articles/tonight-alex-gromack-ed-day-to-attend-nanuet-civic-meeting
linda babcock September 13, 2012 at 08:58 PM
This is just another outrageous example of our goverment at its worst with no regard as to how the taxpayer will be able to afford yet another increase that they slide into the budget disguised as a processing fee ! Give us a break!
Mike Hirsch September 13, 2012 at 11:29 PM
Linda, we have the government that we deserve because most of us choose not to get involved. We will be as powerful (or powerless) as we choose to be. www.clarkstowntaxpayers.com


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