Catskill gives Wal-Mart tax break

This Greenport Wal-Mart is empty since the new larger store opened down the street last year.


Town, Wal-Mart settle dispute
The Daily Mail, 05.05.10

Wal-Mart in Catskill gets break on tax bill
The Daily Freeman, 05.06.10

Catskill is reducing the property tax assessment on the local Wal-Mart $1.67 million, reducing their total to $13.5 million, covering the years 2010 through 2012, effectively granting the giant corporation from Arkansas a large tax break. The Daily Mail first says Catskill is giving Wal-Mart the tax break, “avoiding a costly legal battle.” Then Supervisor Peter Markou reveals a bit more: “We’ve already spent $75,000 in assessment cases,” Markou told The Daily Mail, or said during the meeting. “That’s more than I’ve budgeted for.” Then Colin DeVries, The Daily Mail scribe writes, “The town’s 2010 budget included $40,000 for assessment litigation.” William J. Kemble in The Daily Freeman writes, “the reduction, approved at a Town Board meeting Tuesday, is a step toward settling a grievance by the retail giant. Officials said the settlement, which still requires a judge’s approval, was recommended to avoid further court expenses.” Then he quotes Markou — looks like he said it in the meeting — “This town has already spent $75,000 (since 2008) in assessment cases,” said town Supervisor Peter Markou. “That’s a lot of money. That’s way beyond the budgeted (amount) that I had in there.” Kemble’s story is a day late, but no dollars short. He spent the day following the money:

Town Assessor Nancy McCoy said Wednesday that Wal-Mart paid $530,00 in town, county and school taxes in 2009, and this year is expected to save about $62,000 with the reduced assessment. McCoy said the town has spent $10,100 since January to appraise and defend assessments against five major business. “It’s all ‘big boxes,’” Markou said. “They are all going to challenge their assessments. It’s a good year to do it. The economy is in the crapper.” Besides Wal-Mart, the following companies are also seeking assessment reductions:

• Holcim Cement Co., on U.S. Route 9W, from $10,135,700 to $1,650,00. The case was filed in 2008.

• Home Depot, on state Route 23B, from $8,995,100 to $4,060,000. The case was filed in 2009.

• Lowe’s, on state Route 23A, from $7,099,000 to $3,480,000. The case was filed in 2008.

• Rite Aid, on Route 23A, from $1.8 million to $500,000. The case was filed in 2009.

“You have to pick and choose your battles,” McCoy said. “You do the analysis to see if the assessment is supportable and then weigh the cost of supporting assessment versus the possibility of losing it; what it costs versus what you could save by not going to court and settling.”

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Taghkanic tales

Sam Pratt‘s blog reprints a press release from Tivoli resident Ardith Truhan (a co-founder of the local community group Taghkanic Neighbors), and, as Pratt points out, it is a story so far unreported. An excerpt of the press release follows, take it for what it is worth:

A former Taghkanic resident has charged the town with arbitrarily and selectively penalizing her and her husband as a result of poor record keeping by the town’s previous building inspector and a politically motivated vendetta in connection with their outspoken opposition to the illegal motorcycle racetrack another resident has attempted to build in the town. Ardith Truhan read a letter at the town’s monthly board meeting Monday night accusing town officials of selectively enforcing a little-used building ordinance that requires all residents to have certificates of occupancy (C of Os) for residential buildings constructed on their property. She added that the town board was “fully apprised of all these events from the start,” and that it met in an improper and illegal executive session last fall—some 13 years after they completed construction on three buildings at their County Rte. 11 property—to determine what she and her husband John Markus owed the town, in “what amounts to an arbitrary $3,500.” Truhan said the board’s “complicity” in the attempt to penalize her and Markus “is quite evident.” At the core of the complaint against them, according to Truhan, was an investigation begun by unsuccessful 2009 town council candidate Erik Tyree, who is an employee of controversial racetrack builder Alan Wilzig. Truhan and Markus have been vocal opponents of Wilzig’s racetrack plan. Tyree, according to Truhan, investigated the paperwork associated with construction of their home, studio and garage apartment, and discovered that former building inspector Ed Waldron had not issued C of Os when the projects were completed in 1996. Tyree then set the town’s current building inspector and code enforcement officer Dennis Callahan on the trail with a formal letter of complaint in 2007, suggesting that Markus and Truhan owed the town $800,000 in fines because of the absence of the C of Os on the buildings. Acting on Tyree’s complaint, Callahan sent Truhan and Markus notices of violation. After consulting with Town Attorney Rob Fitzsimmons, however, Callahan then advised the couple that they could pay “fees” adding up to $10,800 to retroactively renew their building permits for each of the intervening years since construction was completed in order to qualify for the suddenly necessary C of Os. The couple challenged that ruling, and ultimately paid the town a settlement of $3,500 to resolve the matter. Read the entire press release and story at Sam Pratt.