RYE BROOK, N.Y. -- A lawsuit against Westchester County by Signature Flight Support Corporation has Blind Brook school officials worried about the potential impact on school funding.
Signature has filed a suit against the county claiming exemption from property and school taxes on property that it leases at Westchester County Airport. The company is claiming that it should be exempt because it operates on county-owned property and is for public use, and because similar fixed-base operations at the airport are exempt from paying taxes.
Signature has also sought reimbursement of prior taxes paid during the period it claims to have been exempt.
If Signature is successful, Blind Brook may have to reimburse as much as $2,168,366 in tax payments it has received, and could lose $664,999 per year in taxes, according to Blind Brook Superintendent William Stark.
On Monday, the County Board of Legislators will hold a public hearing on a law regarding lease agreements with Signature at the airport. The original law that would be discussed allows for lease agreements with a stipulation that Signature discontinue its lawsuit. The law that is now being voted on only deals with the lease agreement, and does not include the stipulation.
"This could have a significant effect on the taxes paid by residents of the school district. It could also have an impact on the services provided by the district," Stark said. If the district has to pay back the $2 million, that is equivalent to about $1,000 from each household in the district. The $600,000 lost per year is equivalent to the salaries of four teachers, he said.
"This came as a big surprise to many of us," said Blind Brook Board of Education President Nancy Barr. She said that the board, district and village officials have been working with the county on the lawsuit issue for over a year and a half.
Stark and Rye Brook Mayor Paul Rosenberg both sent out mailings to the community, asking that they come to the public hearing Monday night and voice their concerns on the issue. Stark, Rosenberg, Barr and Village Administrator Christopher Bradbury will all be speaking at the hearing on the effect that the legislation could have on the district. The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. at the Westchester County offices, 148 Martine Ave. in White Plains.