From Immediate Release
September 7, 2012
Contact: David Gelfarb (917) 817-8046
Gelfarb Urges Legislators to Stop Delaying
Rye Brook Tax Relief Matter
Today, Westchester County Legislator David Gelfarb, (R-Harrison, Rye Brook, Port Chester) urged his colleagues to quickly pass legislation that would authorize the County Attorney to intervene in a pending court proceeding between the Town of Rye and Signature Flight Support Corporation. The County Attorney cannot act in this matter without approval from the Board of Legislators. The necessary legislation was submitted a month ago by the County Executive and has been bottled up in the Legislature’s Budget and Appropriations committee.
“I urge Legislator Meyers, the Budget and Appropriations Committee chair, to bring this matter up for a vote immediately,” said Legislator Gelfarb. “The taxpayers of Rye Town, the Blind Brook School District and the Village of Rye Brook need to know if the Board of Legislators stands with them or with some large airport service company.”
At a closed-door executive session of the Budget Committee held on August 13, 2012, Legislator Gelfarb strongly urged the Budget Committee to adopt the legislation. However, the Legislation was “tabled.”
“The failure of the Board to act could cost these taxpayers more than $3 million,” Gelfarb added.
Gelfarb pointed out that it is not “purely a Blind Brook/Rye Brook issue, but a County wide issue” since County taxpayers would be required to refund over $404,000, in addition to the local share, should Signature prevail in court. All of the involved jurisdictions will face higher taxes in the future because Signature, which conducts a valuable business at the Airport, would no longer have to pay property taxes.
“It is entirely appropriate and imperative for the County to join the Town of Rye in defense of this legal action”, said Gelfarb a practicing attorney. “In my opinion County Executive Astorino and the County Attorney are correct: Signature’s attempt to have its taxable status changed clearly contradicts its lease agreement with Westchester County. A deal is a deal and Signature should abide by its deal.”
Signature is challenging the Town of Rye’s tax assessment of its leasehold interests for the years 2008 through 2011. The Company is seeking a judicial determination that it is tax-exempt under Article 7 of the New York State Real Property Tax Law. If Signature were to prevail in Supreme Court, the Town of Rye would have to refund all of the property taxes paid by Signature since 2008.
County Attorney Robert Meehan is seeking to appear and intervene in the case because Signature’s attempt to receive a tax refund by having its exemption status changed is in violation of the company’s lease with Westchester County. The County attorney cites this passage from the lease:
Lessee shall have the right, at its own cost and expense, to institute an action which the County as owner of the Leased Premises could institute pursuant to Article 7 of the Real Property Tax Law or otherwise to obtain judicial review of the Assessment of the Leased Premises. If any Real Estate Taxes as may be assessed against the Leased Premises are reduced as a result of such action, the Lessee shall be entitled to the full benefit thereof, including any refund payable to Lessee resulting therefrom. Lessee hereby waives any right otherwise available to it to seek a judicial determination with respect to the non-exempt taxable status of the Leased Premises.
County Attorney Meehan has recommended that the firm of Oxman Tulis Kirkpatrick, Whyatt & Geiger LLP, which is already representing the Town of Rye in the Signature lawsuits, be retained to represent the County as well, at no cost to the County.
Signature is a “Fixed Base Operator” (FBO) which leases facilities from Westchester County at the County Airport. An FBO provides support services such as fueling, hangaring and parking to general aviation operators at publicly owned airports