July 19, 2006
Southampton resident Chuck Schwartz said there's a stench of inequity emanating from some of the priciest golf clubs on the East End, and it's a rancid odor he's not sure the rich clientele who frequent the establishments are even aware of.
Schwartz is a software designer with twin 10-year-old sons, one of whom is enrolled in the Tuckahoe School District, and he's incensed that he's paying $7 per $1000 of assessed value, twice as much as what other school districts on the East End pay in taxes.
The problem, said Schwartz, is that the area sports four golf courses, plus a college, and the properties are not being fairly assessed.
Schwartz cited the Shinnecock Hills Golf Club Inc., located on Tuckahoe Road in Southampton as an example. According to the 2006 estimated assessment, he said, the tax assessment total value of the property was $25,627,100, with total taxes of $183,618.18, a decrease from 2005, when total taxes were $244,843.90.
That means that the assessed value of the property was $126,866 an acre, which was taxed at $1212 an acre, he said.
The numbers for the commercial golf course translate into a heavy burden that residential taxpayers should not have to bear, Schwartz said. "The Tuckahoe district pays twice what other districts on the East End pays in taxes, but we don't get twice the services." In fact, he added, students will see the results of budget slashes next season when services and programs are cut.
"It's not like Tuckahoe's a rich district," he said of the community comprised of working class members and seniors.
Meanwhile, the battle between the haves and have-nots rages on: The Hamptons' priciest new Sebonac Golf Club opened in May, with membership priced at $650,000. The club cost about $120 million to build, including $46 million for the 314-acre site and will feature residences on the course. "How much do you want to bet they're not paying billionaires' taxes?" he asked.
Former Southampton Tax Assessor Brenda Noa, who resigned recently, said that the Eastport School District pays the highest taxes, at $16 on $1000, with Hampton Bays' district residents paying $10.6 on $1000. "It's all over the board," she said. "Tuckahoe doesn't seem so bad."
Noa pointed out that golf courses are commercial complex specialty properties, and assessments are calculated differently than on residential parcels.As for the Sebonac Gold Club, Noa said the town hasn't visited the course yet and has no idea what it will be assessed at. Recent lawsuits in western areas of Nassau County have set precedents determining what criteria is to be used and what golf course assessments will result in, she said.
Schwartz doesn't blame the affluent clientele, many of who are philanthropists. "I'm not sure they even know" the problem exists, he said. But the bottom line is equity: "It's all about fairness," he added. "If they're going to raise taxes ridiculously, raise them for everyone. It's not fair to raise them for some people and not others."