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How a Donald Trump golf course started for a public school

Former President Donald Trump and his business empire have always fought hard to come out on top — and this time, the troublemaker on the other end of the deal is a public school district.

For seven years, Trump Westchester National Golf Club located just north of New York City has been fighting with local governments to reduce their property tax bills — and at the same time inflate its value elsewhere by millions. Then in August, emboldened by another golf club’s victory in court, the Trump club pressured locals to strike a deal and cut a third of its value. its rating.

That means the Trump club may be asking them to overpay in taxes, so local governments are demanding cash. But of all the local institutions stuck paying about $850,000 worth of cashback checks, the hardest hit was the tiny suburban Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District. The public education system — consisting of an elementary school, middle school, and high school — picked out the largest table, valued at $588,155.12.

A local official involved in the process told The Daily Beast that schools will not cut back, instead just passing the higher costs on to people who actually live in the area.

“It’s annoying when a scoundrel refuses to pay taxes. My tax rate is higher because his tax is lower,” said the official, who is not authorized to speak in public.

It’s a small area, so locals are more likely to really feel it. With just 2,399 parcels on the books in the village of Briarcliff, taxpayers will pay an average of $245 more next year — depending on the value of their property.

Fernando Gonzalez, tax assessor for the local town of Ossining.

Marie Chalita, a homeowner at Briarcliff Manor, told The Daily Beast: “Anything related to Trump is despicable and/or corrupt.”

This Trump deal is the reason why the Briarcliff school board was forced to increase its budget by 1% in October, when it added more than half a million dollars to “judgments and claims”. Prior to that, the school system had allocated only a small amount of $20,246 to upcoming lawsuits.

The huge tax refund will be enough to pay the salaries of 10 new teachers, according to the numbers listed in a recent union employment contract.

The Trump Organization did not respond to a request for comment.

As The Daily Beast previously reported, this Trump golf club has filed a complaint every year since 2015 seeking to significantly reduce the property tax bill for every local organization involved: Westchester County , the town of Ossining, the village of Briarcliff and the Briarcliff public schools.

For example, in 2016 the company challenged a government assessed value of $15.1 million, arguing that the true value was $7.5 million. Local governments refuse to budge and let the sitting US president reduce his tax bill — while claiming on presidential disclosure forms that his club is actually worth the least a whopping 50 million dollars.

But the situation changed in April 2021, when several local governments lost their tax value in a fight against another nearby golf course, Sleepy Hollow Country Club.

New York State Judge Bruce E. Tolbert ruled that there was “no obligation to value golf courses or country clubs by any particular technique,” allowing the club to be reserved only for members reduce the value of their assets. The judicial opinion established something of a precedent, prompting city governments to think twice about increasing protections for golf clubs in court.

“This decision has completely changed the way golf courses are taxed today,” said Stephen P. Dewey, the attorney who represented Ossining in the settlement with the Trump golf club. In the end, the town had trouble paying the $20,444 refund.

When the Ossining table voted to approve the settlement in July, town supervisor Dana A. Levenberg explained that the move was “a prudent and financially responsible move for the town.”

“It avoids what would be a lengthy and costly lawsuit, as well as the possibility that the town won’t win the lawsuit — in which case the town will get worse in both the short and long term. term. In addition, although both sides made concessions during the negotiation, the settlement values ​​were closer to those presented by the town than by the golf club,” she said during the meeting.

On August 13, the same judge signed the settlement agreement between Trump National Golf Club LLC and Ossining and Briarcliff’s school district. The deal slashed the assessed value from about $15 million to $9.5 million.

It is a failure that the locally elected representative in the state legislature, Representative Sandy Galef, has been trying to avoid for years. Back in 2019, she introduced a bill that would price golf courses based on “peak and best use of the property rather than current usage.” Galef felt that system would more accurately reflect the wealth behind the area’s 18-hole golf courses, set against a forested landscape with beautiful bubbling streams and rolling hills flanked by rolling hills. green mountain.

Galef told The Daily Beast she’s disappointed that Trump ultimately won his tax fight.

“I feel bad about that. I always wanted people to pay their taxes fairly,” she said. “He is someone who has found a way to achieve something. If someone actually looked at his business books, they might be surprised.”

That’s actually what some New York prosecutors are working on at the moment. Last year, Ossining received a subpoena from Westchester County District Attorney Mimi Rocah for her investigation into Trump’s wildly fluctuating golf course valuations. That effort echoes a lengthy and ongoing civil investigation by New York Attorney General Letitia James into alleged tax evasion and bank fraud. Then there’s the joint criminal investigation by Manhattan district attorney and AG James, which ensnared the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg for alleged tax fraud.

“It is not a drop in the bucket. That’s a lot of money for a school district, even a well-resourced school district. Just because we’re settled doesn’t mean we’re happy about it,” said another local government official, who wished to remain anonymous.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/how-a-donald-trump-golf-course-is-screwing-over-a-public-school?source=articles&via=rss How a Donald Trump golf course started for a public school

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