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County to Intervene in $3.4M Case Against Rye Town

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has agreed to intervene in an aviation company’s court proceedings against paying taxes to the Town of Rye.

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has agreed to try to save the Blind Brook-Rye Union Free School District, Town and Village of Rye Brook a combined $3.4 million by intervening in a court proceeding, Signature Flight Support Corporation vs. Town of Rye.

Signature Flight Support Organization, a private hanger and general aviation services company at Westchester County Airport, has brought the Town of Rye to New York State Supreme Court, Westchester County, over its tax assessment. Signature claims it should not owe Town taxes under a provision of New York State property tax law, even though its lease with the county states it cannot challenge its requirement to pay taxes, officials said Monday.

“It is an oddball thing,” said County Legislator David Gelfarb (R), District 6, Rye Brook. Gelfarb noted that Signature has use of town emergency, fire and police services at the airport.

 “If Signature prevails, the Town of Rye would have to pay taxes that (Signature) has paid since 2008,” said Blind Brook Schools Superintendent William J. Stark at the Board of Education meeting Monday night. That would cost the school district $2.3 million, the Town of Rye, $9,000; The Village of Rye Brook, $703,000 and Westchester County, $404,000, according to Gelfarb. Also, in the future, Rye and the County would lose about $500-600,000 in taxes that the company was paying each year. In 2011, Signature paid $575,000 in taxes, Gelfarb said.

“Their (Signature’s) position is there are one or two other lessees at the airport that say they don’t have to pay taxes, but that’s not what Signature’s contract says,” Gelfarb said, adding he does not know why County leases would include language that does not require lessees to pay taxes.

Prior to Monday’s BOE meeting, Stark, along with two other board members, and Rye Brook Village Mayor Joan Feinstein and Village Administrator Chris Bradbury, met with the Board of Legislators. The Budget Committee had tabled the matter twice, but, facing a Sept. 15 deadline last night voted to defend its contract with Signature on behalf of Rye. 

“We understand it’s the county that has to raise defenses…our defense is more significant here,” Gelfarb said.

Superintendent Stark recognized Gelfarb, Feinstein and Rye Town Mayor Joe Carvin for helping the school district to work with the BOL.  

A call to Signature Flight Support Organization in White Plains was not immediately returned.

Do you think Signature should be required to pay taxes? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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