Resolution is passed in response to proposed PILOT with housing developers.
MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. (October 20, 2016) — The Mount Vernon City School District Board of Education has directed its attorney to commence a lawsuit against the City of Mount Vernon, its officers, employees and agents, and such other persons or entities as shall be necessary to protect the interests of the Mount Vernon City School District and the educational services available to students of the District. The resolution was passed at the board’s meeting on October 18 in response to PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements that city officials are negotiating with housing developers which would negatively impact the school district.
The City of Mount Vernon has approved plans for the construction of residential housing, and the city and the Mount Vernon Industrial Development Agency are contemplating offering significant tax incentives for these projects by entering into PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreements. These PILOT agreements would reduce the tax liability on these large property owners while shifting the tax burden to smaller taxpayers.
In addition, the projects, which include multifamily residential units, are expected to increase enrollment in the District’s schools. Since the District is subject to a tax levy cap which does not take into account additional costs due to an increase in enrollment, the tax cap for the District would be reduced in the first year of the PILOT agreement. This drain on the tax base would compromise the educational benefits and opportunities available to all students in the District. Furthermore, the existing physical capacity limitations in the District due to the restructuring of the schools could not presently accommodate the anticipated influx of students.
“As trustees, we have a fiduciary obligation to act in good faith to protect the integrity of the educational standards of the district and to act as responsible stewards of the tax dollars on behalf of citizens of Mount Vernon,” said Mount Vernon Board of Education President Lesly Zamor. “This board has acted in an effort to protect the community against potential double digit tax increases from the development that will ensue if tax breaks, abatements and PILOTs are planned for residential developers.”
“These types of PILOTs benefit developers at the expense of our students,” said Mount Vernon City School District Superintendent Dr. Kenneth R. Hamilton. “If we do not get the tax dollars and state aid needed to support the anticipated increase in student population from these developments, we will be forced to pierce the tax cap or slash programs such as art, music, and athletics to make up the budget gap that we have spent the last two years restoring. This is unacceptable.”
The resolution follows a request by the Board of Education on September 6 requesting that the City of Mount Vernon enact a moratorium on approvals of all PILOT agreements involving the development of residential properties within the Mount Vernon City School District for one year. City officials did not respond to this request.
About Mount Vernon City School District
With more than 8,000 students in 16 schools, the Mount Vernon City School District is committed to providing a quality education to its children as well as developing programs that meet the diverse academic and social needs of its students.