Herald Schools

Legislator meets with school officials about PILOT issue


Nassau County Legislator C. William Gaylor, III, met with school officials at the William L. Buck Elementary School on Jan. 5 to discuss methods for returning excess school tax monies collected from residents, apparently as a result of tax incentives granted to the Green Acres Mall by the Hempstead Town Industrial Development Agency.

The tax break for the Green Acres Mall, reduced the mall’s tax payments by $6.5 million this year by a similar amount each year until 2022 as part of a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, or PILOT. That helped explain why tax bills in school districts 13, 24 and 30 increased, on average, between $322 and $758 in October, drawing fury from unsuspecting residents.

A report commissioned by the IDA found that District 30 and the Central High School District underestimated PILOT revenue they would receive, which caused the schools to levy more than they needed from the community. Other factors outlined in the past three months include the shifting of the commercial tax burden to residential districts, as well as ongoing tax certiorari cases across Nassau County.

“I am not interested in blame or finger-pointing,” Gaylor said in a statement. “What I want to do is make the taxpayer whole, sooner rather than later.”

Gaylor offered the County’s assistance in the matter by agreeing to sponsor any legislation that may be necessary to facilitate the transfer of funds back to the residents. “Today’s meeting shows a willingness on behalf of the school districts to help resolve this situation, and I am grateful for their participation,” said Gaylor.

District 30 Superintendent Nicholas Stirling previously explained that the excess of the levy would be applied to reducing the tax levy of the 2017-18 school year, and that, currently, the district has only received one of two PILOT payments from the IDA.

“We have not received excess monies as of this date,” Stirling said.

Bill Heidenreich, superintendent of the Central High School District, said he was suprised to learn that the press was invited to Gaylor’s meeting. He said that the media presence invited the possibility for grandstanding, and that representatives from the Hempstead IDA and the Green Acres Mall should have been included.

He echoed Stirling’s sentiments about returning money to taxpayers. “We can’t return something that we don’t have,” he said, and added “if the IDA wants to give us the money tomorrow, then we can have this conversation.”

The IDA is attending a forum on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Robert W. Carbonaro school in Valley Stream to discuss the PILOT issue.