OGDENSBURG — The law firm representing the city of Ogdensburg has sent the St. Lawrence County attorney a letter stating that the city will be moving forward with changing the city charter to cease collecting county property taxes as well as transferring other duties to the county, according to a news release issued by City Manager Stephen P. Jellie.
The letter, dated Sept. 8, was sent to County Attorney Stephen Button by Cheryl Sacco, a partner with Coughlin & Gerhart, LLP, on behalf of the city of Ogdensburg. The “final letter” states that the city of Ogdensburg will move forward with changing the city charter to do the following: Stop collecting county property tax on behalf of the county; the county will be responsible for the enforcement of unpaid delinquent taxes on behalf of the city; and the county is obligated to credit the city for unpaid delinquent taxes.
“The city has the authority to amend its charter, including the authority to repeal its obligation under its charter to collect real property taxes on behalf of the county, under Municipal Home Rule Law,” wrote Ms. Sacco.
Ms. Sacco concluded, “All of these changes will be effective for the collection of taxes for the coming 2022 tax year. While the city wished to work with the county cooperatively on this matter rather than to seek unilateral solutions, the county has left the city with no other choice.”
When reached for comment, Mr. Button called the letter “legal posturing” and said it was not a surprise.
“We have been prepared for that,” said the county attorney. “The county is always prepared.”
Mr. Button said that the statements about the county being required to make the city and school district whole in regards to unpaid taxes is an opinion and nothing more.
“It’s a matter of legal opinion and not fact at this point,” said Mr. Button.
Mr. Jellie in the news release stated that it will move forward with the charter changes at its next council meeting on Monday. He added that the city will not change the date or terms for collecting city property tax which begins in April, while the county property taxes will be due in January.
School tax collection dates will not change and city residents will get three separate tax bills, according to the press release.
Mr. Jellie writes that St. Lawrence County legislators Kevin Acres and Joseph R. Lightfoot have obstructed this “proactive consolidation initiative” to stall progress that would improve the financial conditions in the city.
“Clearly Mr. Acres and Mr. Lightfoot were not satisfied with their greedy effort to take over $2 (million) in annual sales tax revenue from the city, now they are doing all they can to insure the city is weighted down by expenses that no other town or village incurs — a true double standard,” writes Mr. Jellie.
When reached for comment, Mr. Lightfoot said that he does not care what Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly or Mr. Jellie say about him in releases or to the media.
“Anyone who is following this and full understands what is going on, they’re well aware that the city of Ogdensburg is currently being run by some dysfunctional people,” said Mr. Lightfoot, adding, “These are the ramblings of a couple of fools. I am not a fool and I am not going to act like one.”
A call to Mr. Acres for comment was not immediately returned.