PILOT Blues, the Tax Cap, and Unintended Consequences

TL;DR - It's as Bruce Singer described.  PILOT payments can slip through the cracks.  The worst part of it is that it's nobody's fault.

It's time to ramp up our discontent with Albany politicians.  Here's why...

As I described in my last post, the process for determining how much tax New York State will allow us to levy for a given school year is rigid.  Bruce Singer has shared with me the calculations made to determine the maximum levy.  From all outward appearances, he's followed the process outlined in the law to a 'T.'  (If you feel like giving yourself a headache, start at page six on the linked PDF to see how it works.  Or, if you need guidance, try the PDF guide here.)

I had a call with Brookhaven Town's assessor (and CFO of the IDA) James Ryan, and I was able to confirm the following by speaking to him, comparing his comments to my notes from various e-mails exchanged with Bruce Singer, and by reviewing the law.

Essentially, if we compute our maximum levy, make all the adjustments necessary with PILOT payments, and then learn that one isn't coming in at a later date, there's nothing we can do.  The levy is locked in and it's collected.  There's no bringing the levy back up to compensate for the PILOT once the levy is locked in.  If we did, we'd be breaking the law.

This represents a huge blind spot in the tax cap law.  Granted, there are other reasons to hate the tax cap - I'll post on that later - but politicians need to know about this gap.

There's also, in my opinion, a gap between the IDA, assessor and the school district.  It's really nobody's fault, but the issue is that there are no clear lines of responsibility for projecting PILOTs so that the school district can adequately and accurately prep its budget.  PILOTs can change, and they can change quickly.  Mr. Ryan said he and his office are reluctant to provide projections, given that they could change - through no fault of their own - and blame would fall on the IDA for providing inaccurate figures if they changed between the projection and the realization of those numbers.

It's important to understand that.  This isn't the fault of our local officials.  It's an unintended consequence of state law, and we need to be vocal about it.  More later.