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Town of Sweden Abuses the Section 485-b Tax Exemption

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The members of the Sweden Town Council are too lazy to do their homework.

That’s why they don’t have any idea that it is actually the town assessor who grants the millions of dollars in business tax exemptions that cost Town of Sweden taxpayers so much money each year.

Instead of finding out the truth, the members of the Sweden Town Council blame it on the County and the State.

It’s the easy way out. They may be nice people, but they are incredibly lazy.

By blaming somebody else, they absolve themselves of all responsibility. They don’t have to do the hard work of actually doing the math needed to understand the town’s tax exemptions.

Instead, past and present members of the Sweden Town Council are deliberately spreading misinformation about the tax exemptions.

During last Tuesday’s town council meeting, Councilwoman Danielle Windus-Cook angrily blamed Monroe County and New York State for the many tax exempt properties in the Town of Sweden.

Unfortunately, that is willful ignorance on her part, and it isn’t a new problem on the Town Council.

Patricia Connors was a Sweden Town Councilwoman for 12 years (2000 - 2011), and she was the Sweden Town Supervisor for 2 years (2012 – 2013), but she is just as ignorant about the tax exemptions as the current members of the town council.

After last Tuesday’s town council meeting, Pat Connors was asked; “Who grants the Section 485-b Business Tax Exemption?”

Connors replied with the incredibly ignorant statement that, “The Town of Sweden did not give tax breaks to any business in the Town. The County did through COMIDA.”

Despite her 14 years on the Town Council, Connor’s statement is 100% wrong.

The Comida tax exemptions and the Business Exemptions are based on two entirely different laws and are listed on totally different lines in the town budget.

The Comida tax exemption is code 18020 in the town budget, and is granted under Article 18A of the General Municipal Law of New York State, which became law in 1972.

The Business Exemptions are codes 47610 and 47611 in the town budget. They are granted under New York State Real Property Tax Law, Section 485-b, which was enacted in 1976.

Monroe County grants the Comida tax exemptions (code 18020), and the town gets no tax revenue from those properties.

The Business Tax Exemption (code 47610/47611) is granted by the town to a commercial, business, or industrial property that has been constructed, altered, installed or improved at a cost of more than $10,000 .

The Business Tax Exemption is 50% of the increase in the assessed value in the first year. The exemption amount then decreases by 5% in each of the next nine years.

According to the NYS Department of Taxation & Finance:

“It is the municipal assessor that grants or denies the exemption. In this particular instance the Town of Sweden assessor administers these exemptions.... All exemptions in Monroe County are administered by local assessors.”

In Sweden, the person who grants the Business Tax Exemptions is the Town Assessor, Tony Eaffaldano.

But, like Councilwoman Windus-Cook, former Town Supervisor Pat Connors never bothered to find out who actually grants the tax exemptions, even though the laws were on the books for the entire time Connors served on the town council.

adjective: not liking to work hard or to be active
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Connors and Windus-Cook both lump the Comida tax exemptions and the Business Exemptions together. But they are as different as the tax exemption for a railroad (code 47200) and the tax exemption for a cemetery (code 27350).

Last year, only three properties in Sweden had code 18020 Comida tax exemptions: the Hampton Inn, and the two professional buildings at 375 West Avenue and 6668 Fourth Section Road.

But, last year seven properties in Sweden had code 47610/47611 Business Exemptions: Abbott’s Frozen Custard, Classy Chassy Car Wash, Lakeside Quality Building, Lowe’s, the Sonbyrne Sales (gas station), Tim Horton's , and Wal-Mart.

The three Comida tax exemptions (code 18020) were granted by Monroe County.

But the seven Business Exemptions (code 47610/47611) were granted by the Town of Sweden Tax Assessor, Tony Eaffaldano.

Windus-Cook and Connors should both know this; but they don’t, because they don’t do their homework. They are lazy.

To complicate the problem, the Sweden Finance Office and the Sweden Tax Assessor’s Office publish the data about tax exemptions in two totally different formats, and it is not uncommon for their numbers to disagree.

Sweden’s Director of Finance, Leisa Strabel, publishes the town budget, and the last page of the budget for each year lists the number of tax exemptions in effect for that year.

The budget lists the 41 different types of taxes exemptions (by code number and by name), the number of parcels that get each exemption, the exemption amount (in dollars) for each type of exemption, and the total dollar amount of all the exemptions.

As noted earlier, Comida tax exemptions are listed as code 18020, while the Business Exemptions are listed as code 47610/47611.

However, the Sweden Tax Assessor’s Office keeps the data for each different tax exemption code in a separate spreadsheet.

For example, the Sweden Tax Assessor’s Office keeps the data for tax exemption code 47610/47611 for each year in a spreadsheet with the title Business Exemption Calculations – Using Full Value Assessments.

The Business Exemption Calculations spreadsheet for each year lists the properties that were granted the Business Exemption by Parcel ID #, Name, Address, Assessed Value, % Taxable, Taxable Value, and Exempt Amount.

The totals in the Business Exemption Calculations spreadsheet do not always match the total for the Business Exemption shown on the last page of the Sweden Town Budget.

The budgets for only a few years are posted on the town website. But, in response to a FOIL request, the Assessor’s Office provided comprehensive data about the Business Exemptions granted from 2003 through 2013. So that is the set of data used in this article.

The data in the Sweden Tax Assessor’s spreadsheets revealed some startling information.

In 2013 by granting $15,399,630 worth of tax exemption to 7 properties in Sweden, the Town Assessor, Tony Eaffaldano, reduced the assessment for just those 7 properties by 63.31%.

This reduced the town’s tax revenues by $68,682.35.

Because Eaffaldano granted those 7 property owners the tax exemptions, those 7 property owners paid $68,682.35 less in taxes than they would have paid otherwise.

Everyone else in the town had to pay higher taxes to make up for the shortfall.

During his tenure as town assessor (2004 -2013) Eaffaldano has granted $69,906,233 worth of tax exemption to 24 properties in Sweden. By doing this, Eaffaldano reduced the assessment for just those 24 properties by 38.65%.

This reduced the town’s tax revenues from 2005 to 2013 by $341,126.41.

Because Eaffaldano granted these 24 property owners the tax exemptions, those 24 property owners paid $341,126.41 less in taxes than they would have paid otherwise.

Once again, everyone else in the town has had to pay higher taxes to make up for the shortfall.

Perhaps it’s time for the voters in Sweden to hold the members of the town council accountable for their actions.

Taxes are high in the Town of Sweden because the town is giving tax breaks to a small number of property owners, at the expense of everyone else.



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