Paul Feiner's Edgemont dispute deepens, withholds $1.2 million in Greenville fire funds
For years, the town of Greenburgh has paid in full its tax warrant from the Greenville Fire District, even though it typically only collects about 90% of the taxes when it has to pay the bill in early May.
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧This spring, the town had collected only 88% of its town and county taxes by early May. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Town Supervisor Paul Feiner slashed fire district payments by 12%, citing an agreement he'd made with fire chiefs in the town's three district.
However, the board of the Greenville Fire District, located in the hamlet of Edgemont, says Feiner had no right withhold $1.2 million. Its chief reports to the board.
Greenburgh paid the district just $8.6 million, with a promise to pay the rest by July 15.
“We are not aware of any lawful basis to do anything but pay 100% of the warrant in a timely fashion,” said Greenville Commissioner Jonathan Faust. “We have not engaged or spoken or negotiated on this topic with the town. We are in the dark about it.”
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧Feiner’s plan to withhold fire district money was part of the town’s response to the economic downturn, with the annual bill for town and county taxes due on April 30. Fire district levies are included in that bill. Under state law, Westchester towns collect taxes for school districts, Westchester county, the town, and taxing districts within those municipalities.
Feiner said the town had withheld the fire district funds because the town had collected just 88% of the total of $191 million billed for town, county and fire taxes. It was paying the fire district 88% of its tax levy to reflect the town’s shortfall.
But withholding the funds was a break with the town’s normal practice of fully paying the fire district tax warrant, even if it had not collected all of the taxes by April 30.
Town Tax Receiver Ann Povella said the town for the past three years has collected about 90% of what’s billed by April 30. She said Tuesday she expected the town to hit the 90% mark this week.
Commission Chairman Walter Groden said that the town had never made a partial payment in the past, even though collections by April 30 were roughly the same as they had been in years past. He noted that the town has the authority to recover delinquent tax payments from scofflaws through tax liens or foreclosures. Fire districts have no such powers because the town serves as the tax collector for them.
Edgemont attorney Robert Bernstein said numerous court decision have ruled that towns do not have discretion over paying the full amount they are asked to collect because they have the power to enforce collections through tax liens and foreclosures.
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧A spokeswoman for state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli declined comment.
Feiner said he withheld the funds as part of a county program that reduced penalties for late payment of taxes to taxpayers facing financial hardships caused by the coronavirus.
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧“The only way this works is for the town to pay fire districts what we collect and then pay the balance after July,” Feiner wrote in an April 23 email to Greenburgh’s three fire chiefs. “We do not have the funds to pay the fire district dollars we haven’t collected.”
The town last week opted into the county plan to reduce late-payment penalties to 0.5% through May 30 and 1% by July 15 for those suffering hardships. Feiner said that the town made late-payment reductions for taxpayers contingent up Greenburgh making partial payments to the fire districts.
There was no such requirement in the county law allowing the reduced penalties.
Feiner said he believed the Greenville Fire District backed his plan because he had received a supportive email from fire district Treasurer Lisa Dinon, an employee of the district who does not serve on the district’s governing board.
“If the fire district doesn’t want us to offer Edgemont residents the hardship provisions, they should appear at a public meeting and explain why, and then we could send a note to say that it doesn’t apply to you,” he said. “It’s ironic that the wealthiest section of town doesn’t want to give residents who have lost their jobs these hardships reductions when everyone else is cooperating.”
By Friday, however, Feiner said that the program was available to all Greenburgh residents.
Feiner has long feuded with Greenburgh’s three independent fire districts, which have rosters of paid firefighters, and chiefs who earn in excess of $200,000 – more than his salary of about $160,000. He was particularly irked that Greenburgh Fire Commission Chairman Walter Groden has not participated in recent Town Board sessions regarding the coronavirus.
Feiner’s ongoing battle with Edgemont intensified in the past three years. The hamlet’s petition to become Greenburgh’s seventh village back is in state Supreme Court for a second round of costly litigation over whether its petition to hold a vote was valid.
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧How this impacts the fire district’s ability to borrow money in the future remains to be seen. Greenville counts on annual payments – in full – from the town when it assures purchasers of municipal bonds that it has a dependable income stream.
幸运飞艇4码选号技巧"As a practical matter, the town paid 88%, which adequately funds our operation through July," Faust said. "On the other hand we simply don’t know how bond underwriters will evaluate the town’s actions here."
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