Push underway for state PILOT payments on abandoned properties in Ogdensburg
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG — A proposal urging New York State to make payments in lieu of taxes on dilapidated properties it owns in Ogdensburg has gained some traction at the state level.
Former Sen. Patty Ritchie introduced Senate Bill S9606 as one of her last actions in December.It has support from Sen. Mark Walczyk and is currently sitting with the Rules Committee.
Essentially, the bill would allow state-owned property in the City of Ogdensburg to be subject to local real property taxation on state lands.
The state bill also has support from Ogdensburg City School District. Superintendent Kevin Kendall said the district would love to see the city’s tax base grow and help relieve the burden placed on taxpayers.
Months ago, City Councilor John Rishe put forward a resolution calling on the state to help offset monetary losses stemming from properties the state owns within the city limits which can not be marketed and have been neglected for years.
Rishe pointed out that over 60% of the value of real estate in the City of Ogdensburg is exempt from taxation, and the single largest tax-exempt land holder in the City of Ogdensburg is the State of New York.
He said the State of New York owns 30% of the land area in the City of Ogdensburg, and the assessed value of the holdings is over $200 million.
Furthermore he says the state owns over 50% of all the St. Lawrence River waterfront lands in the City of Ogdensburg.
“These tax exemptions severely hamper the city’s ability to provide governmental services, including public safety, without exceeding its constitutional taxing limit or raising local real property taxes in a city that already has the highest combined tax rate in the North Country and one of the highest combined tax rates in the entire State of New York,” the resolution says. “These exemptions exceed $8,200,000 in lost revenue to the city, county and school district, and multi-millions of more dollars in lost revenue each year due to their underutilized, blighted, and deteriorating conditions and the fact that they comprise over 50% of the city’s valuable St. Lawrence River waterfront, hampering future private sector growth and development.”
Ogdensburg has been in fiscal distress for years and the problem has been compounded by massive reductions in sales tax collections due to a formula distribution change enacted by the county.
Rishe has been working to come up with new revenues for the city which has seen massive reductions in its labor force and services. He says that the state either needs to develop the properties, return them to the tax rolls or help offset the monetary loss through a PILOT program.