New York state and local lawmakers held a rally Sunday outside Trump National Golf Club in Westchester County. They were promoting a state bill that would change how private golf courses are assessed.
Trump National Golf Club is in Briarcliff Manor, in the Town of Ossining. Village of Ossining Trustee Omar Herrera says he’s been fielding comments about the proposed legislation such as:
“Divisive, and it’s against the president,” Herrera says. “It’s not about the president. It just happens to be that he, a couple of years ago, asked for a 90 percent decrease in his taxes.”
Democrat Tom Abinanti is an Assembly co-sponsor.
“I mean, there are people out there already calling my office, what’s the matter, you’re against rich people?” Abinanti says, “Are you against, are you trying to make the community unaffordable for the normal, middle-class person?”
“I love golf courses even though I don’t personally play, but, I want them to pay their fair share,” Galef says. “That’s just the bottom line. And I don’t think we should stop shouting until they pay their fair share. Thank you.”
That’s Democrat Sandy Galef, who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly that would allow for an assessing unit — in this case, the town of Ossining — to provide that for the assessment of private golf courses, the assessed valuation shall be based upon the property's highest and best use.
“The problem has really generated from this community and I think it’s because the only two golf courses in the Town of Ossining are in court now,” Galef says. “So, and the fact that each golf course is asking for such a lowering of their assessed valuation of their property, it’s just brought this to the attention of everyone.”
Democrat David Carlucci is the lead sponsor in the Senate.
“And, as you’ve heard, we have to close this loophole. Enough is enough,” Carlucci says. “We cannot be subsidizing the recreation of some of the richest people in America on the backs of schoolchildren.”
Again, Westchester Assemblyman Abinanti.
“First of all, this is not about Donald Trump,” Abinanti says. “This is about fair taxes.”
A recent study lists Westchester as number one nationally with the highest property taxes.
“To say that this entire golf course, a-hundred-and-something acres, is paying only somewhere like $100,000 or less, that’s $1,000 an acre, while any one of these little homes on this block, with their maybe one acre, is paying $40,000?” says Abinanti. “That just makes a mockery of the whole system.”
A Trump National Golf Club spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment in time for this broadcast. Galef, who says there is a golf course in every community in her district, says she introduced the bill last year and faced a lot of backlash.
“But I think there’s a better chance, I do think there’s a better chance now,” says Galef.
“I would agree because I think what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to educate the public and educate lawmakers about what this legislation is and what it’s not. And there’s been a lot of interpretation about our legislation that just is not real,” says Carlucci. “The bottom line is this is up to every local municipality to opt into it. As Assemblywoman Galef had said that, municipalities do a public hearing in order to adopt this new regulation that would give assessors another tool, and that’s all we’re asking for.”
Town of Ossining Supervisor Dana Levenberg.
“We cannot stand by idly while our president inflates the value of his property when it suits him, but deflates it when it comes to paying taxes,” Levenberg says.
Again, Galef :
“I mean, Sleepy Hollow wasn’t in the paper saying, this is how much the value of Sleepy Hollow is but, certainly, with the Trump National, that it was in the paper saying this is worth $50 million,” Galef says. “So that’s kind of what triggered this too, when it’s announced that there’s a certain value and then you’re saying, but, I’m in court, and I’m saying in court it’s only worth $1.5 million. So, a real discrepancy.”
Again, state Senator Carlucci.
“Right here in Ossining, we have two courses, two immaculate, beautiful, opulent courses that are filing these egregious tax certiaries, and we’re saying to the state of New York, wake up, because it’s coming,” Carlucci says. “And what that means is not just a loss this year, but the retroactive tax payment that’ll have to be paid will be costing our schoolchildren and our property taxpayers dearly.”
Carlucci believes the courts’ interpretation of tax law has been unfairly assessing private golf courses as if they were municipal courses.
“It’s happened over the past 20 years where cases have been upheld over and over again, not in our favor. It’s only getting worse and worse," Carlucci says. "And now the courses are learning this. They have the right attorneys. They’re filing the certiaries whenever they can, and we think it’s only going to continue to grow, and that’s why this specific industry has to be focused in on.”
Galef, who chairs the Assembly Committee on Real Property Taxation, hopes that such legislation would keep private golf club owners from going to court in the first place.