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City, district locked in $1M tax dispute

Municipal, school district officials in talk for compromise

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The City of Glen Cove and Glen Cove School District are now in talks to negotiate a possible settlement payment for the roughly $1 million that the city contends the district owes it over a complicated tax lien dispute.

In 2017, the city took over payment of a tax lien for a property now owned by Spectrum Group Management. The 22-acre parcel, at 31 Sea Cliff Ave., is a chemically contaminated site that was once owned by Photocircuits Corp., a computer circuit board manufacturer. Photocircuits went out of business in 2007, and the property has been abandoned ever since.

A tax lien is a lien imposed on a property for failure to pay taxes on it. Normally, Nassau County assumes tax liens. Glen Cove, however, is responsible, as a city with its own assessment department, for its tax liens.

In 2018, Spectrum successfully challenged the city’s assessment for 31 Sea Cliff Ave., causing the property’s assessed value to drop from $8 million to $2.5 million. The city, as the lien holder, paid the property taxes, including the school taxes. Last year, it paid school taxes on the $8 million assessment, even though the property’s value had dropped precipitously.

So, the city argues, the school district now owes the city about $1 million in school taxes.

Meanwhile, Glen Cove Schools Superintendent Maria Rianna does not believe the district owes the city anything.

Still, district and city officials are meeting to discuss a possible “amicable resolution” to the matter, according to Chris Venator, attorney for the Glen Cove School District. “The district intends to continue with those discussions and attempt to reach a fair compromise that is in the best interests of the community,” he said.

The City Council had voted on July 23 on whether to sue the school district to recoup taxes. The council, however, rejected the measure by a 4-3 vote.

Councilman Joseph Capobianco said then that he believed a lawsuit would secure the payment from the school district. He was not yet prepared to sue, however. “The district has more than enough [money] to pay for it,” Capobianco said. “While I’m willing to give further talks a chance, I don’t believe the school has been negotiating with us in good faith.”

Mayor Timothy Tenke and Councilwomen Donna McNaughton and Pamela Panzenbeck voted for the measure, and Councilwoman Marsha Silverman and Councilmen Joseph Capobianco, Nicholas DiLeo and Kevin Maccarone opposed it.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, manufacturing at the site contaminated the land with several volatile organic compounds and other hazardous chemicals.

Cleanup of the site started in 2008, and has been ongoing ever since. It’s unclear how much longer remediation will take, but the Spectrum Group is unable to develop the site while the cleanup is under way, according to Glen Cove City Attorney Charles McQuair.

“I don’t want the school board giving away a single penny to the city,” Glen Cove resident Janet Black told the Board of Education at its Aug. 14 meeting. “If the city has financial problems, let them solve it some other way.”

Silverman said she believed the two sides could reach a resolution. Silverman added that it was up to the council and the school board to make sure a lawsuit did not arise from this dispute.

“I think it’s a disgrace that we would even consider suing our own school district,” Silverman said. “We’d be using the same taxpayer dollars to sue each other. It’s been mostly lawyers talking this time, but we need to bring in people who care about this community to find a resolution.”

McQuair also urged residents to contact the Nassau County Legislature and ask that Glen Cove be included in the county’s tax lien system, as it is currently the only municipality for which the county does not assume unpaid tax liens. McQuair said that after an effort to change the law failed under former County Executive Ed Mangano’s administration, no other propositions have followed.

County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton explained that because Glen Cove has its own assessment department, the county is unable to take control of tax liens in the city. While Glen Cove is not currently being reassessed with the rest of the county, it is responsible for its own tax liens.

Tenke said talks with the school district would continue, and he hopes that new input from the school board and superintendent would yield better results.

“Litigation is always the last option,” the mayor said.