NORTH SALEM, N.Y. A town resident has been fighting for 10 years to correct what he considers to be a tax "inequity," with North Salem taxpayers paying more than $5 million annually in school taxes than he believes they should be.
Bill Lang, a 15-year resident who has no children in the North Salem Central School District, said 57 percent of the school district's 1,335 students reside in North Salem, yet town residents pay 73 percent of the total annual school tax assessments.
"Nobody wants to touch a hot potato and give North Salem a $5 million break since others will have to pay more," said Lang. "Over time the formula may have been right but somebody needs to adjust it. It's simply, how do you alleviate it?"
Lang said his pleas to the North Salem Town Board and state representatives to petition the state legislature to change the equalization rate have fallen on deaf ears.
"A lot of residents don't know about it. It's not easy to get things through the New York State Legislature," Lang said. "It has to start with the town board."
North Salem Supervisor Warren Lucas said he has been communicating with Lang about the issue for some time, and while he appreciates Lang's "focus on taxes," he stressed the state's Real Estate Tax Law is not based on how many children from a municipality are in a school district, but what the homes values are in each municipality.
Of the 1,335 students in the North Salem School District this year, 763 live in North Salem (57 percent), 317 in Southeast (24 percent), 167 in Somers (13 percent) and the rest either in Carmel or out of the district, the school district said.
"The tax rate only cares about the valuation of the homes in the district and does not care about the fact that we have 1,500 students or zero students attending school in the district," Lucas stated in an email. "North Salem home values are considered better than values in Southeast. If you go to Albany and complain about paying more taxes per student our representatives who also represent Southeast will tell you that is nice but it has nothing to do with Real Estate Tax law."
Lucas noted North Salem is planning to reassess all its homes within the next few years, an undertaking that will cost about $500,000, but will bring all properties to full market value.
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