Press-Republican

March 2, 2013

Town mulls unpaid-tax issue

By DENISE A. RAYMO
Press-Republican

---- — MALONE — Malone will seek legal advice on how to collect 11 years of unpaid taxes on a privately owned building situated on town land.

The 1,746-square-foot airplane hangar in question is owned by Victor Fellion, who owes $11,655 on the building, according to the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office.

Taxes have not been paid since 2002.

County Real Property Tax Service records state the building, located at Malone-Dufort Airport, is assessed at $19,200, and its full-market value is $22,660.

PAYMENT PROCESS

Town tax payments are taken by the local tax collector until March 31, then any unpaid bills are turned over to the County Treasurer’s Office.

The county covers the bills to make the town whole, but it issues a chargeback to the municipality to recoup the money.

The shortfall must be made up in the following year’s town taxing process and spread across all its taxpayers.

According to the Treasurer’s Office, it doesn’t generally foreclose on government-owned property, but there is a complicated legal process that can be followed to do so. The chargeback issue is usually left to the town to resolve with its tenant.  

‘MORE WORK’

Recouping the money in this case was part of the supervisor’s report at the Dec. 19, 2012, Town Council meeting, but no board members commented, according to meeting minutes.

The issue was not on the agenda in January or on Feb. 13, but this week it was under board member/committee reports for Jack Sullivan, who serves on the Airport Committee.

He said he did not know how much Fellion owes but would be looking for his paperwork because “we’ve got more work to do on that.”

PARTIAL AMOUNT

Last week, Fellion gave Sullivan a check for more than $400, saying $150 was to pay for two months of back rent he owed on his airport-hangar lease.

He then wanted the balance of about $250 to go toward his back taxes.

But when Sullivan tried to give the check to Town Budget Officer Andrea Stewart, she said she couldn’t accept it because there was no accompanying paperwork to show the outstanding balance due and no signed agreement showing a repayment arrangement between the town and Fellion.

Sullivan gave the check to Airport Manager Mark Besio, who didn’t want it because he was due $150 and the check was for much more.

He said he’d need a check for the back rent separate from any town-tax repayment.

Besio sent the check to Stewart as budget officer, who says she still has no authority to accept it.

‘NO TEETH’

Town attorney Lillian Anderson-Duffy said she will consult with the State Comptroller’s Office to find out what to do, since the building is situated on town land but in private hands.

She said the town allowed hangars to be constructed on town land years ago but has since discontinued that practice.

“This is not a traditional landlord-tenant issue,” she said. 

The Town of Waverly, she noted, has a similar situation with privately owned cabins on town-owned campground land in St. Regis Falls.

Stewart asked that specific language be included in the chargeback agreement to cover default penalties and methods on how to track of payments and who would do it.

The lease agreement for hangar space says tenants must stay current on their taxes to maintain their leases.

“Our current lease does not have any teeth,” Stewart said.

Email Denise A. Raymo: draymo@pressrepublican.com