Tonawanda, New York
October 7, 2008
A Regular Meeting of the Common Council
Present: Council President Zeisz
Present Councilmembers: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis
Pledge of Allegiance led by Council President Zeisz
Prayer led by Council President Zeisz
STATUS & PROGRESS REPORT
COMMUNICATIONS FROM THE MAYOR
A letter from JoAnne Jansen, 2 Evelyn Court, dated September 29, 2008, regarding a problem with a skunk.
A letter to JoAnne Jansen, 2 Evelyn Court, dated October 1, 2008, regarding the trapping of skunks.
A proclamation proclaiming October 10, 2008, LCDR Patrick J. Ryan Day in the City of Tonawanda.
A proclamation proclaiming September 27, 2008, Leonard Neaman Day in the City of Tonawanda.
A letter from News 4, dated September 15, 2008, regarding negotiations with Time Warner Cable, Inc.
A letter from Henry Hoffman, 196 Niagara Shore Drive, dated September 23, 2008, resigning as Chairman of the Planning and Zoning Board.
A letter to the Erie County Department of Environment and Planning dated September 30, 2008, regarding the creation of a pavilion at the southern end of Niawanda Park.
A letter from the Superintendent of Schools, dated October 2, 2008, making available their new electronic message board sited at the Middle/High School, to announce activities that are generated, coordinated and sanctioned by the City through their various departments.
A letter from National Fuel dated October 3, 2008, inviting the Mayor and Council to a legislative briefing on behalf of National Fuel Gas including important facts about the upcoming heating season and associated gas costs.
COMMUNICATION FROM CITY OFFICIALS AND CORRESPONDENCE
The following monthly reports were received by the City Clerk:
September minutes of the Board of Appeals
September monthly report of the Building Inspector
September monthly report of the City Clerk
September minutes of the Civil Service Commission
September minutes of the Traffic and Safety Advisory Board
Revenue & Expenditure Reports for the General/Water/Sewer Budget
for the City of Tonawanda as of September 30, 2008
Referred to the Committee of the Whole
Petition submitted on September 30, 2008, to have the overnight parking ban removed and to allow overnight alternate parking.
Referred to the Committee of the Whole
A letter from Council President Zeisz, Mayor Pilozzi and Councilmember Rick Davis, to the residents who live in the vicinity of Spaulding Fibre, dated October 2, 2008, informing them that at the Common Council meeting on October 7, 2008, there will be a status and progress of redevelopment efforts at the Spaulding Fibre site.
Referred to the Committee of the Whole
A letter from Union Hook & Ladder Co., #1, Inc., dated September 28, 2008, requesting that their ceiling tiles in their company quarters be replaced.
Referred to the Committee of the Whole
COMMENTS BY THE PUBLIC ON RESOLUTIONS
City Treasurer, Joe Hogenkamp – I’m just looking here at resolution #1 authorizing the Mayor to sign this agreement with the Court System. That’s a resolution where the State reimburses us for a percentage of janitorial services, janitorial supplies relative to City Hall. This building, this Court facility is about 12% of the square footage of all of City Hall so we basically apply for 12%. This $51,000 that the Court is going to reimburse us, that’s a number that’s built into a budget that someone from the State, the Unified Court System actually kind of padded this number to include a capital project that may or may not happen that they will reimburse us for. It’s a capital project relative to the Court facility. Typically, that number without those kinds of projects, that number typically falls somewhere in the neighborhood of $25,000 to $30,000 just for a point of information.
Ed Gebera – Do they pay for our judges?
City Treasurer Joe Hogenkamp - The judges are State employees.
Byron Kocher, 131 Gibson Street – I’m here so that hopefully you people will vote for the parking on the west side of Gibson Street. We had it for several years and then it was removed a few weeks ago and we’re hoping that you will reinstate for us.
Council President Zeisz - Right now, we’re just taking comments on the actual resolutions from the agenda, but the answer to your question, the notice went to the paper, it will be on the agenda for the next meeting which will be the 21st. There was an issue with the notice and the notice had to be properly corrected so it will be in for the next meeting on the 21st.
Ed Gebera – 157 Brookside Terrace W. – On #2 I see you’re adding stop signs and I want to see some of them go. Instead of seeing some go, I see them coming.
Council President Zeisz - That is correct.
Ed Gebera – Why?
Council President Zeisz – Well these are, and I’ll let Mr. Davis comment too, these are actually corners where people have to stop anyway. By traffic law, you’re required to stop. They’re just going on the short streets that run into Alliger. A lot of what generates signs, either going up, mostly going up, but sometimes coming down, is usually the residents and it’s not our job to decide for neighborhoods what’s right and not right necessarily for that neighborhood so, a lot of times it’s resident driven.
Councilmember Davis – Mr. Gebera, when I was out campaigning these last few times, resident on Cordes, Beyer, Warren, Kibler, and Evelyn Court were all complaining that the one side of Cordes and Beyer where they intersect Fletcher, there is a stop sign stopping people from going on from Cordes on Fletcher. By law, you’re suppose to stop there, but there isn’t a stop sign on the opposite end of these streets and some of our more immature drivers think that because there isn’t a stop sign that they don’t have to stop and these are streets that have a lot of kids so it’s not so much that we’re adding stop signs, we’re just using it to enforce the State law that’s already in effect that when you come up to a T-intersection, you’re supposed to come to a complete stop.
MOTIONS AND RESOLUTIONS
209. By the Council seconded by the Council
Resolved, that Mayor Ronald J. Pilozzi be authorized to enter into a five year agreement with the Unified Court System of New York State for reimbursement for actual maintenance and operation of the court facilities in Tonawanda City Hall for the State fiscal years 2008-2013, and be it further
Resolved, that the Unified Court System will reimburse the City $51,770 for expenses that have been or will be incurred by the City of Tonawanda in State fiscal year 2008-2009.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
210. By the Council seconded by the Council
Resolved, that Section 62-158, Schedule VIII entitled: “Stop Intersections” be amended and the following intersections be added:
Resolved, that stop signs be installed at the southwest corner of Wadsworth Avenue at Alliger Drive, the southwest corner of Cordes Drive at Alliger Drive, the southwest corner of Warren Drive at Alliger Drive and the southwest corner of Beyer Drive at Alliger Drive and be it further
Resolved, that a stop sign be installed at the northeast corner of Evelyn Court at Fletcher Street.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
211. By Council President Zeisz seconded by Councilmember Waterhouse
Resolved, that the reading of the following resolution be waived.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
212. By the Council seconded by the Council
BE IT RESOLVED by the Common Council for the City of Tonawanda that proposed Local Law No. 4 for the year 2008, entitled:
A Local Law providing for the “Cold War Veterans’ Exemption”
pursuant to Section 458-b of the New York State Real Property
Tax Law regarding General Municipal real property taxes for
veterans who served during the Cold War Period.
be and it is hereby introduced before the Common Council of the City of Tonawanda, New York; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that copies of the aforesaid proposed Local Law be laid upon the desk of each member of the Common Council by the City Clerk in accordance with the NYS Municipal Home Rule Law, a copy of which is hereto attached and made a part hereof.
CITY OF TONAWANDA
LOCAL LAW NO. 4 FOR THE YEAR 2008
A Local Law providing for the “Cold War Veterans’ Exemption” pursuant to Section 458-b of the New York State Real Property Tax Law regarding General Municipal real property taxes for veterans who served during the Cold War Period.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE COMMON COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF TONAWANDA AS FOLLOWS:
(a) “Cold War veteran” means a person, male or female, who served on active duty for a period of more than three hundred sixty-five days in the United States armed forces, during the time period from September second, nineteen hundred forty-five to December twenty-sixth, nineteen hundred ninety-one, was discharged or released therefrom under honorable conditions and has been awarded the Cold War recognition certificate as authorized under Public Law 105-85, the 1998 National Defense Authorization Act.
(b) “Armed forces” means the United States army, navy, marine corps, air force, and coast guard.
(c) “Active duty” means full-time duty in the United States armed forces, other than active duty for training.
(d) “Service connected” means, with respect to disability or death, that such disability was incurred or aggravated, or that the death resulted from a disability incurred or aggravated, in line of duty on active military, naval or air services.
(e) “Qualified owner” means a Cold War veteran, the spouse of a Cold War veteran, or the un-remarried surviving spouse of a deceased Cold War veteran. Where property is owned by more than one qualified owner, the exemption to which each is entitled may be combined. Where a veteran is also the un-remarried surviving spouse of a veteran, such person may also receive any exemption to which the deceased spouse was entitled.
(f) “Qualified residential real property” means property owned by a qualified owner which is used exclusively for residential purposes; provided, however, that in the event that any portion of such property is not used exclusively for residential purposes, but is used for other purposes, such portion shall be subject to taxation and only the remaining portion used exclusively for residential purposes shall be subject to the exemption provided by this section. Such property shall be the primary residence of the Cold War veteran or the un-remarried surviving spouse of a Cold War Veteran; unless the Cold War veteran or un-remarried surviving spouse is absent from the property due to medical reasons or institutionalization for up to five years.
(g) “Latest state equalization rate” means the latest final equalization rate established by the state board pursuant to article twelve of the New York State Real Property Tax Law.
(a) Qualifying residential real property shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of fifteen percent of the assessed value of such property; provided however, that such exemption shall not exceed twelve thousand dollars or the product of twelve thousand dollars multiplied by the latest state equalization rate of the assessing unit.
(b) In addition to the exemption provided by paragraph (a) where the Cold War veteran received a compensation rating from the United States veterans affairs or from the United States department of defense because of a service connected disability, qualifying residential real property shall be exempt from taxation to the extent of the product of the assessed value of such property, multiplied by fifty percent of the Cold War veteran disability rating; provided however, that such exemption shall not exceed forty thousand dollars, or the product of forty thousand dollars multiplied by the latest state equalization rate for the assessing unit.
(i) The exemption from taxation provided by this Local law shall be applicable to county and city taxation, but shall not be applicable to taxes levied for school purposes.
(ii) If a Cold War veteran receives the exemption under section four hundred fifty-eight or four hundred fifty-eight-a of this title, the Cold War veteran shall not be eligible to receive the exemption under this Local Law.
(iii) The exemption provided by paragraph (a) of this subdivision shall be granted for a period of ten years. The commencement of such ten-year period shall be governed pursuant to this subparagraph. Where a qualified owner owns qualifying residential real property on the effective date of this Local Law such ten-year period shall be measured from the assessment roll prepared pursuant to the first taxable status date occurring on or after the effective date of this Local Law. Where a qualified owner does not own qualifying residential real property on the effective date of this Local Law, such ten year period shall be measured from the assessment roll prepared pursuant to the first taxable status date occurring at least sixty days after the date of purchase of qualifying residential real property; provided, however, that should the veteran apply for and be granted an exemption on the assessment roll prepared pursuant to a taxable status date occurring within sixty days after the date of purchase of residential real property, such ten year period shall be measured from the first assessment roll in which the exemption occurs. If, before the expiration of such ten-year period, such exemption property is sold and replaced with other residential real property, such exemption may be granted pursuant to this subdivision for the un-expired portion of the ten-year exemption period.
Council President Zeisz – Just a little bit of information on resolution #3, if anybody needs any, this basically provides a tax exemption for individuals that were serving during Cold War times between 1945-1991. When all is said and done, it probably amounts to about 21 years of time because you have the time between 1956-1961 which was the gap between Korea and Viet Nam and then from 1975-1990 between Viet Nam and the Persian Gulf. So, the exemption is basically 15% or up to $12,000 and if you’re a disabled Vet, it’s a flat $40,000 and I guess that’s the essence of it. If anybody has any questions, they can certainly talk with our City Assessor but we want to make sure we get this Local Law in place for next year’s roll which has to be in place by March 1st.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
COMMENTS FROM THE PUBLIC AFTER RESOLUTIONS
Robert Derner, 286 Niagara Shore Dr. – I’d like to ask a couple of things here. When I was watching some kind of survey on the television, I noticed that Amherst Town Board is on television and sometimes Williamsville School Board. Is there any reason why our Council meetings can’t be on public access?
Council President Zeisz – Not that I can think of. I don’t know why Amherst and Williamsville are, I don’t know how they got in the position to be on public television even though it’s a painful experience for me to sit and watch it.
Robert Derner – A lot of people in the Tonawanda Towers in the wintertime, they would like to see what’s going on.
Council President Zeisz – We can certainly check into it. I think what’s a little different too, we start our meeting at 6:00 in our Caucus Room in the back so we meet back there until 7:00. Then we come out here for the Formal Meeting then we’re going to go back in the room for the rest of our meeting. I think one of the things you see in Amherst is, they never leave, they just stay right up there and their entire meeting takes place there. But it certainly is something we can look into. I don’t know, like I said, I have no idea how they got into the position to be on television.
Robert Derner – It seems to me the way they do it is there’s a TV camera on a tripod and somebody just pushes a button when they enter and when you’re finished you just push the button and it’s done. The other thing is, the County Executive of Nassau County is trying to promote a property tax cap of 4% for schools and I think his name is Tom Swazi but I would think it would be nice if the Council could either send a letter or a resolution to support.
Councilmember Perkins - We did that.
Councilmember Davis – Six months ago.
Council President Zeisz – We already did that, I remember because Mr. Heylmun got up at that point and asked me if I would never vote for a tax increase over 4% and I told him that I wouldn’t.
Robert Derner – Then going forward, I want to ask for next year, when you make out a budget, it seems like a homeowner when they make their budget out for the year, say a guy makes $40,000 a year and he’s got a family, they plan their budget around what they make, what they’ve got coming in. They don’t have the luxury like the City does of saying, “well, this is what we want and this is what we’re going to need to operate our City and everybody in town is going to have to pull me up”. Why can’t the City, if you have a budget of $90,000,000 say, this is what we’ve got to spend and this is what our Department Heads, you’re going to have to make it work just like a business because the people in the City are paying too much in taxes compared to other communities around here. Over in Niagara County the other day one of the legislators said that Niagara County is the highest taxed county in the country. Well he was wrong because he said they were paying 2.9% of the house value. He was wrong because he didn’t look across the River and see Tonawanda where we’re paying 4%. I mean that’s not right, we’re just paying too much taxes here and there’s got to be some way to cut back. I know you don’t want to pay it any more than I do but there’s got to be change in the way we do business here because we’re just pricing ourselves out of competition with other communities. We want to build housing up in the Little League place up in Riverview, you want to turn business into Spaulding, you want to bring condominiums where the water department is, who is going to, what incentive should I say, does a developer have to come in and build a building when he knows that with condominiums and the housing, there’s going to be taxed higher than other communities. You gotta look at that and you’ve gotta find a way to do it. That’s one thing.
Councilmember Davis – Mr. Derner, those three developments you brought up, those are three pretty major developments here in the City and those are probably three of the last virgin areas of land that we have to develop. Now with those three areas back on the tax rolls, those will provide tax stabilization to the residents because as of right now, we’re not getting a dime for any of those three pieces of property so, therefore, the tax rate where it’s at, if we have businesses come into the Spaulding Fibre site, if we have the condominium unit come in to where the water/sewer treatment plant was, and houses up by Little League, that is actually going to lower the tax rate because you’re going to have more properties on the tax roll.
Robert Derner – Except for one thing. Right now you do not have any services provided to those so you’re not spending any money on them right now so how can you say it’s going to lower it?
Councilmember Davis – Well, how would that increase our services? I mean, we have to pick up trash everyday, Monday through Friday, we have police on the streets so we wouldn’t have to hire any more police officers or any more firefighters, or any more salt for the roads or any more people to pick up the trash. So, we already have the services here so how can you say that it would cost more to have those…
Robert Derner - …how can you say you’re not going to have to have more policemen or more garbage men or City workers to service these people. I mean, you can’t promise that.
Councilmember Davis - I guess, call me naïve, but I’m failing to see where another 50 homes would cause such a burden on the City that we would have to hire more people, or a condominium unit that we have to hire more people, or business down at Spaulding Fibre where they would, by law, have to put their trash into dumpsters which we wouldn’t have to be responsible to take care of. As it is right now, we’re responsible to take care of the grounds around Spaulding Fibre so, if we develop Spaulding Fibre, it would actually free up City workers to do other things in and around the City.
Robert Derner - It’s a vacant parcel.
Councilmember Davis – And we take care of the grass three to four times a year. That’s three to four times a year that our recreation crew can be out taking care of other parts of the city that they can’t do because they’re up there taking care of that.
Robert Derner – I disagree with you but that’s me.
Ed Gebera – (inaudible, did not use microphone)
Councilmember Davis – Show me the numbers then Mr. Gebera.
Ed Gebera – How many years before Spaulding Fibre gets on the rolls, how many years before Little League up there gets on the rolls if you build houses. Where we did build houses, how many years is that in the future? You’re talking more houses, more taxes and you ain’t got it now. Spaulding, it will be probably be ten years before you do anything with Spaulding.
Robert Derner - Another thing is, I asked this before and I wondered if there was any thoughts on this. Mary Traverse in Orchard Park, she published all the job descriptions of the Town workers, not their names, but their job description, what their benefits are, what their pensions are, what is the cost to the taxpayer so that when you go to talk to the unions and reach an agreement you got some backing from the public if you have to take a hard line. Right now you’re in the room with a union representative and you reach an agreement, nobody knows what the agreement is, you do, but the public doesn’t and how does that, why isn’t the people that are paying the bills being more knowledgeable on what kinds of agreements you reach because these are mandates that effect our property tax.
Council President Zeisz – I do know that on at least two occasions in the past, and in the not too distant past, the Tonawanda News asked for those records and they’ve never done anything with them. So it’s not like an outlet, such as the paper, hasn’t had their hands on them where they could have put that in the paper.
Robert Derner - Why can’t the City just print out something at the Clerk’s office and have it available for anybody that wants to look at it. I mean that would be the cheapest way to do that.
City Treasurer Joe Hogenkamp – Mr. Derner, you can FOIL that anytime. We do that for Nancy Paschen every year, every name.
Robert Derner - I saw the names. Nobody cares about the names. It’s the positions and they want to see what benefits just to see if they’re competitive with other people. Nobody’s complaining about what they’re paid, we only complain when it’s in excess. Then there’s one other thing, my favorite subject, unfair assessments. The people that were hired to do a revaluation in this City in my view, they were not competent enough, they didn’t do a good job. Now I’ve been in the City since I been a child. I’ve gone all through the schools here. I started my business here and I’ve built maybe 100 units around this City and so I have a pretty good idea of what property values are in the City but if you take me to Niagara Falls or Batavia, I couldn’t tell you what property values are and be accurate. This guy that you hired, from what I understand, he did Town of Hanover and he did Town of Ellicott. He never did a City, he was an assessor in Hamburg, but he didn’t know nothing about the City of Tonawanda. The Assessor told me she went with him to every unit in this City, 6800 units and looked at every one. Now I find that very hard to believe that you could go to every one and assess 6800 units in the one year time that he had to do this unless he was working day and night.
Councilmember Perkins - Mr. Derner, he was not an assessor in Hamburg. He was an appraiser. He lived in Hamburg. He was an appraiser, he probably had over 25-30 years experience as an appraiser. This was like his third or fourth project on his own under his own name, but he had worked for another company for years.
Robert Derner - But the thing is that when you hire somebody to do something like an assessment on a property which is the most unfair tax that you can every get, they gotta be right and this guy, I can show you houses that are so far off the beaten path of what the values are, it’s astounding. I mean, a lot of them will be corrected in court but why do people have to go to court, pay a lawyer thousands of dollars to get a fair assessment. That shouldn’t be.
Council President Zeisz - Well, probably for the same reason we have people complaining about their assessment but asking $50,000 more on the open market for their house than it’s assessed for.
Robert Derner - Yeah but how many of the people now are selling their houses for $50,000 and $60,000 and $70,000 lower than…
Council President Zeisz - …and if that comes to be, then assessments are going to be corrected.
Robert Derner - It doesn’t stop it from this year. This year the assessments
are tacked on and it will take a year to complain, to get it corrected. So
anyway, the problem here is the property values have dropped because the
assessments are not correct. A lot of them are way over assessed from what the
value of the house is and now the value of the houses have dropped. During the
worse time since 1929, couldn’t pick a worse time to do this revaluation. Look
what’s happening all around the country and we’re paying more taxes here than we
were last year. Some of these people have got their assessments raised 100%,
200%, 300%, okay? Tops alone has an increase of $40,000. Tops just is a big
money maker in this town because it brings in a lot of business and $40,000 is a
hit that they can’t take. They’re on shaky grounds to move out and we’re taxing
them $40,000 more and that was given to me by the guy who is fighting their
appraisal. And one other thing, I’m sure you read this in the paper but I’d
like to read this little article and this isn’t somebody from Riveredge. This
is somebody, a little old lady that lives somewhere else in the City of
Tonawanda. She says, “I’m a City of Tonawanda senior widow who experienced a
$400 increase in my City school tax bill this year. Would someone who explain
why a person who has a nice home and tries to maintain it is subject to a higher
payment than the owner who neglects his property. I am penalized because I take
pride in my home and therefore must pay a greater share to balance this week’s
budget. I also agree with another caller who stated that nationally, the price
of housing has decreased 15% and this is the year the City fathers decide to do
a reassessment. Where’s the logic?”
Mayor Pilozzi – Mr. Derner, just for manner of the record, on October 2nd, I had asked our Assessor, Patricia Bacon, to give me some statistics on the property revaluation. To that end, these are the figures. 24% went down between 10% and 25% of their previous valuation. So right off the bat, 24% of the houses in this community went down between 10% and 25%. 11% went down 25%, so therein lies 35%. 40% were between minus 10% and plus 10%, right in the middle. 13% increased between 10% and 25% and 12% increased 25% or more. Now if you ever worked with statistics, that’s what they call a bell curve and that to me is statistically sound.
Robert Derner – 25% or more you said.
Council President Zeisz – For 12% of the homes.
Robert Derner – I can show you homes that went up 100%, 200%, 300%.
Council President Zeisz - But let me ask this question. 100% of what?
Robert Derner – 100% of what they were paying…
Council President Zeisz - …of the old 100%?
Robert Derner - Yes.
Council President Zeisz - You’re sure. Because a lot of people that I’ve talked to, your old assessment was not at, it was a lower number, it was 60%. It was 60%.
Robert Derner – Last year, I’ll just take my house for instance, okay? Last year, we’ll go 2007 or 2006. My total value assessment was $187,778. The following year it went up to $208,356. The next year it went to $220,435. That was full value and you were assessing me at 73%. This year it went from $220,000 up to $435,000. Now come on, that’s ridiculous to increase somebody’s assessment $214,000 when other houses that were bigger than mine have $105,000 less assessment. You’ve taken houses over at Riveredge that were built that the ones that were in the middle everyone of them was pegged at $169,000. That means the end units that are ranches with two car garages were assessed the same as the middle units that have one car garage and slightly smaller two story units. And you have houses like Mary’s there, she’s on the street behind Hollywood Video, Her tract faces the house next door, it doesn’t face water but every one of those houses are assessed exactly the same and the lot, or the lot is assessed exactly the same at $30,000, the same as lots over in the middle at $30,000 and the gray units in the middle unit. So this assessment is completely wrong. They never looked at the house, they just looked at a group of houses because they look alike and never even examined where they were, how they were situated or what their view was or anything or even the size, they never even looked at.
Joyce Hogenkamp, 241 Rogers Avenue – At this time I’d like to thank the Mayor and Councilman Waterhouse for coming to the ribbon cutting ceremony last night for the George Miller gym and our tennis courts. I’d also like to invite everyone to T-NT next week. This is a big deal for Tonawanda. As I stated last night in my speech for the opening of the gymnasium, Tonawanda is now celebrating tradition and looking forward to the future, our future is our children. I’d like to invite all of you to please participate in T-NT, show the kids that you really care about them. Thank you.
Marshall Banks, 132 Niagara Shore Drive – I’m not going to go into my assessment with all the figures. You said, I never heard of one house that was raised 100%. I want you to know mine was. So all of those figures and that, that is just beside the point. They all say that we on Riveredge and all of our waterfront property. You can’t have a boat there, you can’t go swimming there, you can’t walk your dog because of the bicycle path and then the other thing is we don’t get any kind of cooperation from the City. On Labor Day they smashed all the benches at the point. I called the Police, nobody showed up. I called the DPW and three guys came out, they looked at it and said “ya, it’s broke”. And it is still that way today. Nobody will do anything. So I just say, when you get all of your tax money together and start doing something for the people, don’t be looking to have more houses and over there at Spaulding Fibre, that should be a nine-hole golf course and you wouldn’t have all of the problems you got. All you got to do is put some top soil down, grass, and make it something for the people for a change of the City of Tonawanda instead of yourself.
Patricia Rankin, 24 Niagara Shore Drive – Just want to say that my assessment went up from $105,000 to $285,000 in one year.
Marshall Banks – You are talking about people who aren’t even on the water. Everybody isn’t waterfront property. Even on Niagara Street they said that is Niagara view property. You didn’t put that water out there. That was there long before you were ever here.
Council President Zeisz – All I know is that we hired an outside firm for a reason. To do a reevaluation of the City’s homes. The State came in, they were a part of the entire process. They went through the entire process with our City Assessor. The State confirmed that there was a really good job done. Overall, I am not saying that every assessment was exact or the way people wanted it to be but they take a lot into account. They take pass sales into account. They take similar homes in similar areas into account and the thing is that Riveredge is separate from the rest of the community. Because you cannot make comparisons with Riveredge and the rest of the community.
Marshall Banks – Why not?
Council President Zeisz – Because the sales are totally different than the rest of the community.
Edward Gebera – Do they get anymore services than the rest of the community?
Marshall Banks – We don’t get anymore.
Council President Zeisz – This is not going to turn into a fight. If somebody wants to take the mic, fine but we are not going to shout back and forth at each other. Now the thing is Mr. Gebera, if you want to talk fine, but take the mic. Here is one example of that area, can you go park your car over at Riveredge? You can’t park your car over at Riveredge and go visit someone. There is no parking allowed in that area.
Marshall Banks – Those are all City streets where there is not parking allowed. Those are City streets and you put the signs up, not the Riveredge people. On a private road which is a driveway everybody goes up and down it, walks up and down it. Nobody says anything.
Council President Zeisz – What I am saying is…
Marshall Banks - …they drive their cars right through my driveway and onto the Riverwalk. Right through.
Council President Zeisz – You would be hard pressed to find many houses in the City that would sell for what a house in Riveredge will sell for.
Marshall Banks – I am sure I can find a lot of them.
Council President Zeisz – Not to that value.
Marshall Banks – Yes you can, they’re there.
Council President Zeisz – Out in the City, you are going to find that many houses that are going to sell for $300,000?
Marshall Banks – Yes, yes you can.
Council President Zeisz – No you can’t sir. I am not going to argue with you.
Marshall Banks – They just built a house off of Delaware…
Councilmember Perkins – It is never going to go up for sale.
Marshall Banks – And that is what is wrong, you can’t sell ‘em.
Councilmember Perkins – I don’t think that property owner has any intention of ever selling that home.
Marshall Banks – No, I know but he is saying that they don’t have any….
Council President Zeisz – Sir, you can’t bring up one example, sir, the average home in the City of Tonawanda is less than $70,000, the average home in this community.
Marshall Banks – I dispute that because, I lived up there and I got $75,000 in 1988 for my home so don’t tell me that…
Council President Zeisz – Mr. Hogenkamp, what does the average home sell for in this community?
City Treasurer Hogenkamp - $70,000 - $75,000
Marshall Banks – Then how could I get $75,000 in 1988?
Council President Zeisz - Because there is a lot of houses that won’t sell for anywhere near $70,000.
Marshall Banks – How about the houses on Brookside? How about behind Riverview? If those houses are $70,000 I’ll buy ‘em.
Council President Zeisz – There is a lot of property in the City and a lot of it will not even sell for $70,000.
Marshall Banks – There is a lot for sale in this City and it is all junk and you won’t do anything about it except raise taxes. That is all I have to say.
Council President Zeisz – You are more than welcome to your comments but at this point unless somebody has something on a different topic I am cutting the meeting off because we have a lot more work to do and we have been out here for almost two hours.
Marshall Banks – Ya, I know, it is a lot of work for two hours isn’t it for all of ya’s. I work twelve hours per day.
Council President Zeisz – Sir, just so you know, I went to work at 8:00 A.M. this morning so I don’t need your smart mouth at the Council Meeting. If you have something constructive to say, fine. But you don’t have to be rude.
Marshall Banks – You like to shout at me, I can come back.
Council President Zeisz – Because I cannot get you to just speak in a normal voice.
Robert Derner – When we sold homes at Riveredge a lot of these people over there are Senior Citizens and about half of them are retired people or close to retirement. When they bought their homes, a lot of them bought their homes for $85,000 or $90,000. A lot of them bought their homes and they planned on living in them. They didn’t plan on moving into them and making a profit. I can understand when a house is sold and taking the average of the houses that are sold when the new buyers understand what the assessment is going to be and what their taxes are going to be. But when people buy their house for the first time and are still there they qualified to buy that house based on the taxes that are in place at that time with reasonable increases and what they paid for it. Then if you come along a revalue those houses 100%, 200%, 300%, they are trapped. They can’t sell their house they can’t get it for what you assessed it for and they can’t afford the taxes you put on it so it goes down. The second buyer comes in and buys that house and then the price is down below anyway and then you have to assess it for at least close to what he paid for it, the second buyer. The first person is screwed. That is not right for the older people. You got to find some way to help them out because they didn’t buy the house to make a profit.
Council President Zeisz – The thing is Mr. Derner, and I told you this. I am not disputing that some people are paying a lot in taxes and I understood that. But, there is a reason that we hired an outside firm. None of us up here are in a position to do this job with the assessment, that is why we hired an outside company. They work with the State and our Assessor to perform this work. We had a process. Everybody could have their informal hearing, their formal hearing, and I understand that maybe things weren’t changed to the satisfaction that everyone wanted. Unfortunately, this is the process as it played out and now some individuals….
Robert Derner – O.K., I agree with that but when they saw that some people’s property was going to increase gigantic amounts of money, the Assessor and the people who appraised that property should have known that you can’t just jump someone that quickly in one year. You can do it over a period of time but not in one year. Give them a chance to get out of there and that is all I am saying.
Council President Zeisz – I understand exactly what you are saying. I guess I just don’t know how to answer that because the point of it was to try and get everyone to 100%.
Robert Derner – That is true, I understand that but this is a problem that has creeped up. It has to be exclusive to us. You can’t leave people trapped in their house where they can’t afford to pay for it and pay their taxes and they can’t sell it.
Mary Langenbach, 20 Niagara Shore Drive – I paid $85,000 for my house 20 years ago. Now my taxes are going to be $9,000. I have been retired for 12 years. I haven’t had raise in all that time. My taxes are going to take my complete pension. So I am going to have to start to look for another house. I don’t think I am going to be able to sell it because if somebody comes in and sees my house for $285,000 and knows the taxes are $9,000 from everybody I have talked to, nobody pays that kind of money for that kind of a house. So I am really between a rock and a hard place. I don’t know what to do. We are going to court and see what happens but it is never going to be low enough so I can afford it and I love it here. I love Tonawanda.
Council President Zeisz - What was your home assessed for before?
Mary Langenbach - $105,000.
Council President Zeisz – Was that at 60% or the full 100%?
Mary Langenbach – 60% and my taxes then I think were high. With the Star program I paid $4,600 last year and now I have to pay $9,000.
Council President Zeisz - $105,000 give or take is about $140,000.
Mary Langenbach – Around $159,000 I think. Again, I am not the only one. There are a lot of us in the same boat.
Council President Zeisz – So you went up about $125,000 give or take, $130,000?
Mary Langenbach – No, it went up $180,000.
Council President Zeisz – No, no, from $159,000, that would have been 100%
Mary Langenbach – And I am not the only one, there is a lot of people.
Council President Zeisz – I am not saying your case or anyone in particular, but the fact that it hadn’t been done since 1989 is the fact that probably in those 19 years a lot of people didn’t pay as much tax as they should and a lot of people paid too much. The end result being the people that were paying a lot, even $200, if you take that over 19 years is almost $4,000. Visa versa, someone that should have been paying $200 a year and wasn’t…it comes across as a big shock. You’re particular case is a big shock, a very big shock.
Mary Langenbach – I have to leave. I am going to give it a year and see what happens. That is about it. I am not going to have the money to stay here and that is really a shame. I thought when I bought my house that I would be able to stay here for the rest of my life. I am not the only one. Unfortunately somebody else is going to have it and pay lower taxes than I do.
Council President Zeisz – You still don’t know where the situation with your home is going to go either.
Mary Langenbach – No, and I don’t know if it is ever going to go low enough so I can afford it.
Council President Zeisz – As anyone can see here I am not yelling at anyone. It is just if I am trying to get them not to yell back that is why I was speaking so loud. Also, we don’t always have the answers up here. I don’t envy some people’s positions. It is just one of the reasons why the Council took the approach we took this time because 19 years ago the Council played way too big a role and tried to play “white knight” way too many times with people and all it turned into was a disaster and that is why this time it was left totally out of the Council’s hands. We made a decision to do it. It was done and we can only move forward from here. Unfortunately we don’t always make the decisions that everyone is going to like but I think for the overall good of the City I think it was the right decision to go to 100%. I think it was the best thing for the community. The ultimate fair thing for the community and like I said not everyone is going to agree but I think the majority of residents felt that it was fair.
Edward Gebera, 157 Brookside Terrace W. – The whole system, in my opinion, is out of wack. You’ve got a lot of people that are retired, one or two people in a home and they got to pay taxes like a whole family but that don’t count. I don’t like the system right now. We are stuck with it. There should be some better system than the system we have right now.
Council President Zeisz – I am assuming Mr. Gebera what you are referring to is the fact that because maybe you have a bigger house or live in a different street or live in a different area you pay more taxes than the guy that lives two streets over or ten blocks over. I think Mr. Derner was alluding to that fact earlier that instead of everyone paying the same amount. The unfortunate thing is that in the system in this country taxes are built along a socio-economic basis. Whether it’s your income, whether it is your property, whether it’s your vehicle.
Edward Gebera – I understand that. Originally it was built along those lines because people had big farms and they had a whole family on a farm and they would assess the farm for a reasonable amount and everybody would pay close to a fair share. Now we have a different society totally and I think the whole system is out of wack.
Council President Zeisz – Thank you Mr. Gebera.
Edward Gebera – Thank you.
COMMENTS FROM THE COUNCILMEMBERS AFTER RESOLUTIONS
Councilmember Perkins – I have nothing further. Thank you.
Councilmember Waterhouse – I have nothing at this time.
Councilmember Kossow – I have just one comment in regards to the assessment. One of the things that Carl mentioned was the decision to go with the 100%, hopefully by maintaining the 100% as sales occur from year to year that is when the adjustment will be made. That is the key to the 100%. So as sales are made then adjustments to the assessments can be made in conjunction. I was very happy to see the turnout for the Spaulding Fibre meeting tonight. There were a lot of people from the Third Ward as well as a lot of the Forth Ward that are adjacent to that property and it is good news that we will continue to move forward and see a lot more activity on the site. It was discussed earlier that when you don’t see trucks going or things happening you don’t think anything is going on. But as the Mayor and Ken Swanekamp indicated there is a lot of activities that are still going and in the next few months we will be able to see a lot of that hard work with the buildings coming down. That is great news. Lastly, the last couple of weekends we had some great events in the City. We had Fall Fest which was up at Veteran’s Park. There was a great turnout. The 200 gallons of chowder was all gone. The pumpkins were all gone. It is a nice activity. I think this was the 13th annual. It just seems to get better every year. It is a great inexpensive event for the families in the City. This past Sunday we had Autumn on Main Street. It is just the second year out but hopefully that is the beginning of another weekend festival in the City. Hat’s off to all those involved in those two activities. Thank you Mr. President.
Councilmember Davis – I would just like to thank past and present members of the Spaulding Fibre steering committee. I think without everybody’s hard work and determination we wouldn’t be having this meeting that we are having tonight. Just to put things in perspective, the grain elevators, it took 35 years before they were torn down. Spaulding Fibre has been in the City’s possession for 4 ½ years and once demolition occurs it will be about 6 to 6 ½ years so 6 ½ years compared to 35 years, I think it is remarkable and it speaks volumes to the quality of people we have working to try and get this done as soon as possible. Jim already mentioned Fall and Autumn Fests so I won’t speak any more on that. This Sunday Fire Open House 10:00 AM to 4:00 P.M. at Fire Headquarters. If you are not doing anything come on down, they will have Chili and stuff like that. Lastly, two Thursdays ago the Army Corp of Engineers released their proposed plan for the Seaway Landfill, which is remarkably comparable to the Tonawanda Landfill which is the least cost effective possible way to deal with things which is pretty much throw a couple of feet of dirt over it and wash your hands of it. I think that the Army Corp has shown the propensity to take the cheaper route instead of the most logical route which is to make sure the health, safety and welfare of our residents and the residents in the Town and so forth. The public comment period is open and I would encourage you to go to the Army Corps website and check out their proposed plan and to make comments on it and while you’re at it let them know what you think. This bailout package that the feds have delivered for us. I have my own bailout package. It would be considerably cheaper than the one they propose. I think we should give every American over the age of eighteen $2,000,000. That $2,000,000 would have been taxed by the feds so they would get their money back. It would have been taxed by the State which would have helped with the State economy. With what was left over residents would have paid off their mortgages, they would have paid off their credit cards which would have taken care of the credit card debt and on top of that they would have taken what was left over and invested it in the stock market which wouldn’t be failing as it is now. It seems to be that $7,000,000,000 is an awful lot for a band aid over a bullet hole but I kind of like my idea a little bit better. Thank you Mr. President.
Mayor Pilozzi – Thank you Mr. President. I agree with Councilmember Davis. I would be more than happy to take $2,000,000. I think we could all spend it more wisely, much more wisely than the Federal Government and put the economy back in motion. The sad thing is if you look at the markets today it just keeps going down like a rock. It is starting to spill over into Europe and next probably will be over in the Asian market. It is getting very worrisome. The fact of the matter is we are bailing out people that should not be bailed out. The American public is the one that should be getting bailed out. No matter what their argument may be. In any rate, there was a good crowd here tonight for Spaulding Fibre. It was very nice to see. Just to tail on to one of the comments Councilmember Davis, if the Federal Government worked as well as we do with Spaulding Fibre there wouldn’t be a problem with the landfill. Whether it is the Seaway Landfill or the Town of Tonawanda Landfill. It is just ridiculous. We go to meetings, numerous meetings. We have written letters. I don’t think there is a file in my office larger than the one on the landfill. It is absolutely ridiculous to see the way we are treated as citizens by the Federal Government, especially when it comes to contamination. Then look at the way we handled contamination with Spaulding Fibre. It is a world of difference. Hopefully, in short order, I wish I could tell you what date it is but that 47 acres of property is going to be put back into some kind of use for the citizens of this community. There were some very nice events this past weekend. There is another one coming on Sunday with the Open House at the Firehouse. Bring your kids up there, it should be a nice event. The ones that we had the last few weeks were absolutely outstanding. It seems to be bringing more and more people into our City. One last comment, I don’t think there is anyone up here that is not sensitive to what is happening when it comes to reval. We set our course, Council President Zeisz was right on the money. We decided to pull back. Any time anyone ask me about reval I said that is being handled by the professionals, not us and I believe I can speak for everybody up here, that is the way it was handled on a professional basis with the oversight of New York State. But, when you hear some of the comments that were made tonight these are the people that are caught between a rock and a hard place. When you go into a system you can’t do it different for one than you do for another but you have to be sensitive to the fact that that can happen. Approximately, I am going to say a year ago, I went out to the Town of Tonawanda where a school was razed and a developer was building new homes and the cheapest home he was building was $230,000 and it wasn’t any nicer than what we have over here at Riveredge. The difference being there wasn’t any connection between them, they were stand-alone units if you will. Does that mean everything over here should be worth that much? I don’t know. I don’t think anybody up here knows. We are not professionals when it comes to real estate valuation. That is why we hired the people we did. But I think we are sensitive to the fact that some of these folks did kinda slip through the cracks. (tape ended)
213. By Councilmember Kossow seconded by Councilmember Perkins
Resolved, that this Common Council adjourn until October 21, 2008.
Ayes: Perkins, Waterhouse, Kossow, Davis, Zeisz
Resolution declared adopted
Return to CITY OF TONAWANDA web page