ALBANY — State representatives have submitted matching bills that, if approved, would require New York state to pay taxes on property it owns in the city of Ogdensburg.
Sen. Mark Walczyk, R-Watertown, and Assemblyman Scott A. Gray, R-Watertown, have sponsored matching bills — S04810 in the Senate and A05276 in the Assembly — that “allows for the taxation of state property located in the city of Ogdensburg.”
Sen. Walczyk’s bill was referred to the Local Government Committee on Feb. 15 and Assemblyman Gray’s bill was referred to the Real Property Taxation Committee on March 7.
The ability to tax state property was the subject of a resolution passed last fall by the Ogdensburg City Council. A task force has also been formed by the City Council to work on moving the bills forward in the state legislature.
A memorandum in support of bill A05276 says that “state land in certain places within New York state is subject to property taxation, however, although the state of New York owns 30% of the land in Ogdensburg, and much of it is unused, the city is not able to collect taxes on any of this land.”
Since Ogdensburg does not have the right to collect property taxes on any unused state land, the bills call it “patently unjust and deprives the city of Ogdensburg of much needed financial resources. This bill will remedy the existing deficiency within the current statutory framework by allowing the city of Ogdensburg to collect property taxes from the state on lands.”
Mr. Gray said that the bill is fair and would force the state to move at a faster pace in redeveloping the properties. He added that if there are no redevelopment options, the buildings need to be torn down. He points to the abandoned, deteriorating buildings at the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center complex and the vacant Ogdensburg Correctional Facility.
“If they are not going to repurpose the buildings, they need to raze them. Absence of that they should pay taxes until things happen,” Mr. Gray said.
This is illustrated in a letter Mr. Gray and Sen. Walczyk sent to Empire State Development Commissioner Hope Knight following a budget hearing in February where they voiced concern with the redevelopment efforts of the closed Ogdensburg and Watertown prisons.
“Without a real plan, there is a real worry that both of these aforementioned locations will deteriorate,” the state representatives wrote. “A perfect example of this is the current condition of the St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center buildings. Portions of the structures on the property are dilapidated and have fallen into disrepair. The State of New York has not been a good steward of this property. You have an opportunity to not make the same mistake twice.”
Mr. Gray also sent a letter to Office of General Services Commissioner Jeanette M. Moy, who had testified during the same state budget hearing, about Mr. Gray’s concerns over the vacant state prisons as well as the psychiatric center property.
“You state in your written testimony it is the responsibility of the Office of General Services to be good stewards of state property. I would like to have you take a tour of this location in Ogdensburg with me, and I think you will agree that the state has not been a good steward of this property,” Mr. Gray wrote. “My concern for the decommissioned prison properties is based on a track record and visual of what exists, that it will be treated the same as the St. Lawrence psychiatric center property.”
Similar legislation aimed at vacant state prisons is also in the works.
Recent legislation introduced by Assemblyman Matthew J. Simpson, R-Horicon, and Sen. Daniel G. Stec, R-Queensbury, would make the state pay taxes on any closed prisons with a goal of offsetting the economic impact of lost jobs and lost commerce when a correctional facility is closed and remains vacant.
Those bills have the same language, and would require “the state pay taxes on the assessed value of properties of closed state prisons until such prison is reopened, used by another state agency, or is conveyed to a non-governmental entity.”
The legislation had 12 Assembly co-sponsors, all Republicans, including Mr. Gray.
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