I am writing to respond to the proposed SEQRA review of the land adjacent to the Guggenheim Elementary School. I understand it is intended to legally determine if some or all of the land should be preserved as the environmental treasure that it is. I expect an underlying motive for the study is to answer those groups who want to turn the land into more athletic fields.
Since Dr. Gordon has stated, unequivocally, that our school district has sufficient athletic fields to serve our students I would like to know why the board of education is prepared for an out aying of large amounts of money, including legal fees, to conduct an unnecessary SEQRA study. To propose the study and a bond issue for more athletic fields is talking out of two sides of the same mouth. We have sufficient facilities - why build more? Why does a study for land that is not essential to accomplishing the current curriculum of student athletics?
If we are catering to groups outside the school system who want free facilities, as we have done in the past, times have changed. Maintenance costs are higher, we have a population increase, and we can no longer afford to give non-school based athletic programs a free ride in the form of new athletic fields - especially on land that has precious and endangered species on Long Island.
I am sure we are aware of the extent that taxes have jumped beyond many citizens' abilities to pay them. It is unlikely that our citizens will support any proposals that will increase taxes. We have to reconsider any attempt to undertake the SEQRA study and any bond issue for athletic fields. The board of education has to listen to the people. Let's stop the madness now!
(Ed's Note: We asked the superintendent to clarify his statement on the fields at Guggenheim. He responded, "SEQRA studies of the Guggenheim fields haven't been done. To even contemplate possible use of the fields at some future point, we need the studies to determine what environmental issues and risks exist. At this time, we can't even begin to look at any expansion until we take care of the fields we have.)
(Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to Barry Siegel and printed here at Mr. Person's request.)
Your letter (report) published in last week's (Jan. 29) issue of the Port News was excellent, concerning the injustices of the Jan. 1, 2004 revaluation of Class I (residential) properties.
Even if my own privately filed grievance with 87 exhibits is honored by the board of assessors (Assessment Review Commission) I would be more than willing to contribute funds so that attorney Fred Perry, Esq. of Dix Hills can pursue an appeal of the misguided judge's ruling on an appeal of his own previous ruling (sounds like some backwards thing from Alice in Wonderland). It sounds to me that the judge is unaware of the diabolical attempts by the county to force certain chosen areas of the county to cure, in one year, all of the financial woes generated over the past by prior administration(s). We may have to go to the Appellate Division and then to the Court of Appeals in Albany to obtain relief from our woes.
At the (so-called) "information" meeting hosted (chaired?) by our county legislator, Craig Johnson, at the library on Jan. 15 there were present the following: (1) chairman of the assessment review commission (ARC) (appointed, salaried by county) (2) another employee of ARC who was never identified or given a chance to speak or answer questions. (3) deputy chairman of board of assessors, who turned out to be a sacrificial lamb sent by the chairman of the board of assessors who should have been there himself. (4) another employee of the board of assessors who, if allowed to receive and answer questions from the public at the onset, could have satisfied the needs of the public and shortened the meeting by two hours. (He was finally permitted to speak at the vociferous request of the writer) (5) another board of assessors employee who was never introduced or given a chance to speak or answer questions.
Instead of introducing all five individuals and briefly describing what type of information or guidance each was capable of delivering, our stalwart legislator himself proceeded to tell everyone what they already knew regarding the court case and judge's ruling and then allowed no. 1 and no. 3 to inflict a torrent of hot-air excuses, rationalizations and blame diverting equine defecation, attempting to throw the blame for all our re-assessment woes onto the judge and onto the Ohio-based re-appraisers, Cole-Layer-Trumbull. Based on what I could "hear between the lines," it appears that the county administration (Board of Assessors) are themselves the sole cause of our woes.
Like most people in the county, I felt Cole-Layer-Trumbull did a fair and equitable appraisal for the Jan. 1, 2002 assessment rolls, giving everyone who wanted a review 15 minutes of time to see if they had made incorrect assumptions and correcting their market value appraisals accordingly.
I was satisfied with my $695,400 valuation, as it was fair and equitable compared to the property appraisals of most of my neighbors.
If the county had allowed Cole-Layer-Trumbull to follow their own methods to determine Jan. 1, 2004 values, I suspect we would not have this present fiasco and aggravation. They could have increased the value in the same proportion to the 2002-2004 bureau of labor statistics increase in the cost of living index.
But no! In what appears to be an attempt to solve all the county's financial shortages in one year, the county selected recent sales prices and instructed Cole-Layer-Trumbull to use these sales prices (many for greatly improved mansions, temples, palaces and great Gatsby-type Taj Mahals that can in no way be used as comparables to the humble abodes occupied by most of us less affluent Joe taxpayers) in determining our Jan. 1, 2004 values.
I hit the roof, blew a fuse, and was afflicted with "appraisal rage" when my "market value" was increased 34.22 percent in two years to $933,400.
I was further enraged when I found on the "mynassauproperty.com" website what five properties the county told Cole-Layer-Trumbull to use as "comparables." I'm familiar with the recent (1996-1997) expansion of second floor living area of one of these so-called "comparables" and the owner who told me how much it cost.
This increased living area does not even appear on the county's floor plan sketch, which results in an inflated "cost per square foot" building valuation, based on sales price.
Further aggravation: When the computer told me that a neighbor's house, visible from my front porch, same size and built by the same builder, to the same architectural plan, at about the same time and using the same shoddy materials* was given a January 2004 value of $786,500 compared to my $933,400, I got mad and real busy. From my experience in 1995 and 1996 delivering petitions to the front doors of over 5,000 homes (took 16 days to do this) I was aware of three additional homes the same as mine (Dutch Colonial "Queen Ann cottages"), all the same size, same architecture, and same builder, all the same vintage. Two of these are so identical to mine that a person coming home late after over-indulging might not recognize he/she is in the wrong place until finding one's self in bed with a complete stranger. These additional properties have been given Jan. 1, 2004 values of:
1. $898,500 (75 percent larger lot than mine)
2. $818,800 (23 percent larger lot than mine)
3. $800,800 (corner lot - not comparable)
If the county wants to avoid repeating the mistakes of the previous administration by avoiding disastrous legal expenses and tax refunds with interest, it is my suggestion that they either:
(1) Call Cole-Layer-Trumbull back and let them do the Jan. 1, 2004 revaluation their own way (one or two sales in a neighborhood does not necessarily a "comparable" make), or (2) simply increase the appraised or estimated Jan. 1, 2004 vs. Jan. 1, 2002 in the same proportion as the corresponding two-year increase in the BLS cost of living index.
I hope by reading this letter to Mr. Siegel the members of the public who feel they have been dealt a grave unjust blow to their financial survivability will be helped in deciding how to proceed with their grievance before the assessment review commission/board of commissioners. If you don't have a computer, use one at the library. It takes five minutes to learn how.
* To prove a point concerning shoddy materials and design, in 1986 the writer had to install three additional support columns and jack-up the main center beam of the house, which had sagged down 1" and 1 1/2" between columns and was crushed in two places on top of the original columns. After completing the job, my $786,500 neighbor purchased two of my jacks as he had to do the same to his main beam.