Legal expert weighs in on Rotterdam sewer tax issues and possible solutions

ROTTERDAM, NY (NEWS10) – Rotterdam City Council members are doing their best to reassure angry residents who have received over inflated sewer tax bills. Unfortunately, the meeting on Wednesday night came without an answer yet.

“We do not like it and we know you do not like it and I do not want to sit up here and say we can just wave a wand and you will no longer have this debt service because no one has on presently convinced us that we can change the situation we are in, ”Deputy Superintendent Jack Dodson explained to the group that attended the board meeting.

“Those people glued it to us, and they glued it to you, and you as the new board should stand by the people of Rotterdam and do what is right,” said one woman during the public comment period, referring to the previous board’s decision about changing the city tax. structure.

As NEWS10 reported, Supervisor Mollie Collins and Deputy Superintendent Dodson confirmed in a Wednesday morning interview that the former city administration on December 8 had made several changes to the way taxes were billed and specified. In doing so, the city also accidentally charged the entire debt of a sewer improvement project to only the residents of Sewer District 2, Extension 1. Dodson confirms to the city’s residents at Wednesday night’s board meeting that the total of about $ 146,000 was intended to be split up. between all the residents of Sewer District 2.

Collins and Dodson had said that the Schenectady County tax authorities told them that it is impossible to change a tax once it has been levied. Property tax legal expert Erika Browne says it can be less a function of impossible and more that it is extremely difficult.

“The problem with the tax collection right now is that it has been approved and what they have done is that the budget has been distributed among the city members. I do not know how you could correct it in a way that would do it justice. and fair at the moment, ”Browne explains to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

She says you may get some of your taxes back later along the way, but you should pay them first to avoid late fines, something the city council also advises.

“You may have seen before a line that says ‘repayment’, which is when a municipality gives money back, but that would be a future adjustment of next year’s tax, not an immediate solution,” she says.

“If you have paid too much in taxes, you will receive a credit, but please do not put yourself in a situation where the situation gets worse by not paying your taxes,” Dodson said during the meeting.

Browne adds, however, that once you pay your taxes, you can still object to the charges and prepare a lawsuit.

“What you want to do is make sure you keep your rights. You would normally write it correctly on your tax ‘paid in protest’, because if something is corrected, you can say I objected to the tax,” he explains. “Even if you have already paid the tax, you can still consult a lawyer and challenge it later.”

She says residents can then file a so-called “Article 78 proceeding” with the Schenectady County Supreme Court – and challenge an authority’s decision.

“It challenges the constitution of it. Was it fair? Is it fair and just? Does everyone contribute the right amount? And how did they come to that decision, or was it done by mistake?” Browne explains.

She also says residents have time to make a claim, specifically because the city admits it has not given notice. All taxpayers are usually given four months to complain about any tax changes their municipality makes.

“The question is, when does that clock start on the four-month window? It could be every time this was passed in December, or if the city had published it anywhere, but at this point, from what I’ve heard so far, it reads. as if the first notice these residents received was the property tax bills they received, ”Browne estimates.

She also adds that it might make the most sense to have power in numbers.

“You can go together, and it’s typically like that, someone would deal with something like that, where you would have several plaintiffs, and it would be members of the sewer extension, and you could bring one case,” she concludes.

NEWS10 has reached out to Schenectady County as well as Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, who represents the Rotterdam area, to clarify whether there are any corrections the city can make within the limits of tax law. We are still waiting for an answer.

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