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Aug 29, 2018 10:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe School District Dealt Another Blow In Attempt To View Local Golf Course Assessments

Tuckahoe School Superintendent Leonard Skuggevik said the district was disappointed in a Supreme Court justice's decision to rehear its case regarding a denied FOIL request to see how local golf courses were assessed. GREG WEHNER
Aug 29, 2018 10:06 AM

The Tuckahoe School District was dealt another blow this month in its attempt to review financial records of private golf clubs within its borders to help bolster its case that the clubs don’t pay their fair share of Southampton Town property taxes.

A request to have a State Supreme Court justice reconsider the 2014 denial of a Freedom of Information Law request to view the records was denied in Suffolk County Supreme Court in Riverside by Justice Paul J. Baisley Jr. on August 8.

For years, school officials have claimed that four private golf clubs within the district—National Golf Links of America, Southampton Golf Club, Shinnecock Hills Golf Club and Sebonack Golf Club—have been skimping on their tax bills.

The courses pay only about one-third of the taxes that they would if they were assessed on their property value, rather than their annual income, which is the way commercial properties are taxed in the town. The district says it loses millions of dollars in revenue: The four golf courses cover 951 acres in total, making up about 12.7 percent of the entire school district, but pay less than 5 percent of the district’s total tax levy.

In the past, Lisa Goree, the Southampton Town tax assessor, has confirmed that golf courses, like all commercial businesses, are assessed based on commercial activities—restaurant and pro shop sales, for example—but not on membership dues, which she said already would be reflected in restaurant and pro shop sales, or for the overall value of the land on which they are located.

She added that although the golf courses account for a sizable portion of the property in Tuckahoe, past court cases have determined that they should be assessed as commercial businesses.

In order to see how the golf courses were being assessed, district officials, through a series of FOIL requests submitted to the town, have repeatedly tried to review the clubs’ financial records submitted to the town assessor’s office, and used to determine the amount of tax owed, but they were turned down.

“I didn’t feel it was something we could give away,” Town Attorney Jim Burke said of the records. “We could be giving away competitive secrets.”

Despite the denial, school district officials pushed forward to get the records and filed a lawsuit against the town.

The district lost the suit, and then filed an appeal, requesting the matter to be heard again. This time, the district also requested to have the town pay its attorneys fees, because they said the request was unreasonably denied under FOIL. A new law enacted earlier this year encourages courts to order government entities to pay reasonable attorneys’ fees and other litigation costs when a FOIL request is unreasonably denied. But that request also was denied by Justice Baisley.

In his decision, Justice Baisley said he determined the town had a reasonable basis for withholding the documents.

“The district disagrees with and is disappointed by the court’s decision, as it believes its position was, and remains, meritorious,” Tuckahoe School Superintendent Len Skuggevik said this week. “The district has pursued this matter in the best interests of the district, its residents and students, and will consider all of its further options, including appellate review.”

Multiple calls to Stanley E. Orzechowski, the attorney representing the district in the matter, were not returned.

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How are other golf courses on Long Island taxed?
By itsamazing (222), Southampton on Aug 29, 18 1:33 PM
I don't understand how a private club can be taxed as commercial It's not like the public can go on the property and play golf or even walk for that matter It's private for members only Homes are consider private and, therefore, pay residential taxes and are not commercial based This matter should be looked into for the good of the Tuckahoe community and school not the private club and its members
By leo (19), hampton Bays on Aug 29, 18 3:40 PM
1 member liked this comment
When you lose a legal request not once but twice, its reasonable to infer that the other side is correct. The school district needs to move past its class warfare Hail Mary...the courses pay tax exactly in accordance with NY law...and focus on doing more hard work for sustainable solutions for our kids. The Village and the Town both have real responsibility here too. These politicians are paid to fix our problems...fix them. But stop chasing the fake bogeyman...a waste of time and money.
By BNP (7), Southampton on Aug 29, 18 9:36 PM
courses do not pay fair share
By deKooning (105), southampton on Apr 19, 19 8:44 AM
Its really very simple as its value is based on its income generated, through dues green fees etc but not on its highest and best use. The Hamptons are residential homes driven and unless the land received some kind of protected status, it use would be to develop into hundreds of homes. Based on other articles in neighboring towns, if this ever came up for development the residents would revolt against it. The courts have upheld golf course valuations based on its income all over America. Perhaps ...more
By North Sea Citizen (562), North Sea on Aug 30, 18 6:30 AM
1 member liked this comment
At least a change bucket for donations in the locker room. Hmmmm.
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Sep 8, 18 8:14 PM
As members of Shinnecock they screw Tuckahoe’s district with the help of a local attorney who has fled the area.

As members of the SH Association they screw SH District at every turn with the help of fringe local real estate agents and militant summer residents.

They then give a token scholarship away to avoid being prosecuted by the IRS for tax fraud for lying about being apolitical
By SlimeAlive (1181), Southampton on Aug 30, 18 7:04 AM
Hmmm. Sounds rational. I’m sure many are persuaded by this.
By BNP (7), Southampton on Aug 30, 18 9:18 AM
1 member liked this comment
The commenter 'BNP' is most likely connected to the issue as they only seem to comment on articles relating to it and on behalf of one side of the argument ...so are you the lawyer or someone else?
By adlkjd923ilifmac.aladfksdurwp (734), southampton on Aug 30, 18 12:08 PM
1 member liked this comment
I pick Pickett... Pres Shinnecock Golf.
By deepchanel (87), Hampton Bays on Aug 31, 18 1:49 PM
You are right!. BNP is Brett Pickett. You can tell the way he speaks/writes. Born on 3rd, thinks he hit a triple.
By even flow (943), East Hampton on Sep 4, 18 11:46 AM
Sorry guys, I agree the original comment in this string is loony. Your response is to try to guess and rip who wrote it? Why? Attacking the messanger is what people do when they are losers on the messsage. Strive higher.
By CPalmer (100), Southampton on Sep 5, 18 7:38 PM
Slimey, militant summer residents?where are you living and talking about? You reporting from Syria?
By Fred s (3020), Southampton on Aug 30, 18 7:12 AM
The school district is undergoing financial hardship while the la-dee-das golf with a $1000 putters and $2500 golf bags. Shinnecock Hills income from the US Open must be included in their state filings unless they are committing tax fraud. In which case, this is not just an inquiry into their income levels and the Town of Southampton has an OBLIGATION to taxpayers to cooperate. A forensic investigation into the accounting and tax filings of these clubs may be a matter for the Attorney General of ...more
By Dodger (161), Southampton Village on Aug 30, 18 10:39 AM
1 member liked this comment
Good point Dodger. That being said, anyone who has purchased a home in the Tuckahoe school district knows that the taxes are incredibly high, CAVEAT EMPTOR
By bigfresh (4546), north sea on Aug 30, 18 12:29 PM
45k a student in Southampton is an outrageous stealing NY the school district. The Tuckahoe district is out of control. The summer residences are subsidising our taxes in the Hamptons and now this greedy district wants more? Tuckahoe is lucky there are golf courses in Southampton rather than homes with school kids. These people running the district are beyond fiscally irresponsible they are corrupt.
By chief1 (2768), southampton on Aug 30, 18 11:59 PM
Simple solution: allow the town to buy them out for their assessed evaluation and convert to public golf. Sounds fair.
By TheTurtle (143), Southampton on Sep 8, 18 8:09 PM
Hot Tubs,SALE, Southampton Village, SouthamptonFest weekend