Galef, Carlucci & Indivisible Briarcliff Ossining Host Rally In Support of Legislation to Tax Golf Courses More Fairly

Bill to Protect Taxpayers & School Districts
April 29, 2019
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Briarcliff Manor, NY – Assemblywoman Sandy Galef (D-Ossining), Senator David Carlucci (D-Rockland/Westchester), and Indivisible Briarcliff Ossining held a press conference and rally today outside of Trump National Golf Club Westchester in support of legislation (A.6444/S.4420) to change how golf courses are assessed.

The legislation gives a community the option to assess golf courses based upon their highest and best use, which would give local assessors a more accurate assessment of the property and prevent taxpayers and school children from subsidizing golf courses.

Currently, several golf courses in Westchester, including Trump National, are taking advantage of the “Country Club Loophole,” and filing grievances with their local governments over their tax assessments, knowing under current law their private multi-million-dollar courses will be accessed like municipal golf courses.

“Two golf courses in the Town of Ossining are currently taking advantage of a loophole in the law in order to pay a lot less in taxes, shifting the burden to local residents. We cannot let this type of behavior go unchecked; taxpayers should not be subsidizing private golf clubs. This bill gives municipalities a leg to stand on if a golf course in their community is intentionally lowering the value of their property to reduce their tax burden. We want to ensure that golf courses pay their fair share of taxes just like the rest of us,” said Assemblywoman Sandy Galef.

Joining Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Carlucci in support of the legislation was Indivisible Briarcliff-Ossining, the Board of Education for Briarcliff Manor Schools, Town of Ossining Supervisor Dana Levenberg, Briarcliff Manor Village Manager Philip Zegarelli, Ossining Village Board Trustee Omar Herrera, Assemblymember Tom Abinanti (D- Greenburgh/Mt. Pleasant), Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia, and Senator Peter Harckham.

"It’s simple, this legislation protects taxpayers and school districts from subsidizing people to play golf. I am working to lower taxes for New Yorkers, not burden them more when a golf course that is $250,000 or more to join is taking advantage of a loophole in the law to pay less in taxes. This legislation is not a state mandate, instead the decision is left up to local municipalities to change how they assess golf courses," said Senator David Carlucci.

“Briarcliff-Ossining Indivisible supports this legislation. We want everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. Shifting the burden to residents and lying about the value of your property is unacceptable and has to stop. This legislation helps to value golf courses in a more logical manner and helps balance the business and residential tax burdens. President Trump values his properties on a whim, and then expects us to make up for it. This is not okay with residents of this community. We believe that golf courses should pay their fair share,” said Audrey Gelfand with Briarcliff Ossining Indivisible.

"Taxes must be fair. Homeowners should not be required to subsidize private recreation facilities. This legislation gives local governments more options for balancing the taxes on different land uses," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti.

Since 2015, President Trump has been engaged in a lawsuit with the Town of Ossining over the evaluation of Trump National. The Town assessed the golf course at $15.1 million, but President Trump said in his suit, the course is only worth $1.4 million, despite valuing it at more than $50 million on his public financial disclosure form during the 2016 presidential race. President Trump is seeking to have his property tax bill cut from about $500,000 to $340,000 a year, and be paid back what he claims he has over paid in taxes. To pay the President back will cost the Town of Ossining significantly. 67 percent of the Briarcliff Manor school taxes previously collected, 18 percent of the Briarcliff Village taxes previously collected, and 15 percent of the Town of Ossining and Westchester County taxes previously collected will have to be paid back to the President. In 2008, the President took similar legal action against the Town of Ossining and won, having his assessment of the course reduced from $38 million to $16 million and leaving taxpayers to foot the difference.

“For too long, we have watched the gap between rich and poor grow, wreaking havoc on our middle class and making it difficult for us to support the very institutions, which are vital to our democracy. We cannot stand by idly while our President inflates the value of his property when it suits him, but deflates it when it comes to paying taxes. Thanks to our State Senator David Carlucci and Assemblywoman Sandy Galef for working to make a change that would make it harder for President Trump to once again get out of paying his fair share of taxes,” said Ossining Town Supervisor, Dana Levenberg.

Sleepy Hollow Country Club in the town of Ossining and The Apawamis Club in Rye are also seeking reductions on their property tax assessments at the expense of taxpayers. Sleepy Hollow Country Club since 2012 is seeking to reduce their assessment by 30 percent and shift about $450,000 to taxpayers, while $310,000 would have to be paid back to the club from Briarcliff Manor school taxes.

"The Briarcliff Manor School Board strongly supports ensuring that country clubs, such as the two in the Town of Ossining, pay their fair share of property taxes. We believe that is being threatened today," said Briarcliff Manor School Board President, Jennifer Rosen.

The Apawamis Club is seeking a 50 percent reduction in their taxes from $900,000 to $200,000, despite it boasting an elite 18-hole golf course, seven tennis courts, seven squash courts, a swimming pool, and a state-of-the-art athletic facility with on call personal trainers.

“There is a clear inequity in the law that allows expensive and private golf clubs that make significant profits to be subsidized by all the other small property owners and taxpayers in the community. Thanks to Senator Carlucci and Assemblywoman Galef for creating this long-overdue fix,” said Westchester County Legislator Catherine Borgia.

“It is crucial we ensure everyone pays their fair share of taxes and that we do not add additional burdens to our working families and school system. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing golf courses or any private for profit businesses,” said Ossining Village Trustee Omar Herrera.

While this legislation is not a state mandate, but a local opt-in for local municipalities, Assemblywoman Galef and Senator Carlucci believe it will make golf courses think twice about filing costly lawsuits to get out of paying their taxes.

The Town of Ossining's Supervisor and the Westchester Chapter of the NYS Assessors’ Association support the legislation.