At this time of year, when brown leaves are blowing everywhere in heaps, hundreds of North Haven residents who live in private communities scratch their heads when they see village worker Glenn Ficorilli with his vacuum truck picking up leaves piled along the community’s relatively few public roads.
Why the head scratching?
They pay village taxes but don’t get the leaf pick-up because, legally, the village cannot spend the public’s money providing a service in private communities, Mayor Jeff Sander has explained.
The North Haven Village Board is now recommending a solution for the problem. The board at its meeting on November 13 agreed to recommend an end to the annual fall leaf pick-up program after this season and set a public hearing on the proposal for 5 p.m. on Tuesday, December 11.
The public discussion, however, will range over the other option the village has been pondering: setting up a special tax assessment district containing only properties along public roads and charging them a leaf pick-up assessment as a separate line on their tax bills. That way, property owners in private communities wouldn’t have to subsidize the service, for which $47,500 was allocated in the current fiscal year’s village budget.
In an interview on Monday, Mayor Jeff Sander called the proposal a “big deal” for the village, where he said three-quarters of the community’s $1.909-billion assessed valuation is in private communities with private roads maintained by homeowner associations.
He said North Haven Manor, a private community with about 90 houses between Route 114 and Shelter Island Sound, first raised the issue a few years ago, more than a decade after the Manor board of directors stopped its own leaf pick-up program because of rising expenses and constant complications due to weather, scheduling and homeowners who blocked the Manor’s narrow roads with their leaf piles. Property owners there are on their own for arranging and paying for leaf pick-ups.
About a decade ago, East Hampton Town gave up its annual leaf pick-up program for similar reasons; Southampton Town stopped picking up bulk leaves, requiring them to be bagged except for seniors. The town does not serve property owners in incorporated villages, who pay a lower tax rate because they do not receive the same town services.
In Sag Harbor, where Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley said there has been a leaf pick-up since 1934, highway crews pick up leaves the whole month of November in order to finish up before the snow and ice comes in December. On Monday, he said, they had completed three sweeps through the community so far.
There are relatively few private roads in Sag Harbor, where Mr. Yardley noted the village, by state law, may not provide services. They include the roads in the Ninevah community and several others single roads around the village including Farmers Place, Woodbine Drive and Long Pond Lane, he said. The roads in Chatfield Hills, Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and some other communities were made part of the village’s highway system and receive services, according to Mr. Yardley.
In North Haven, Mayor Sander said the village has been studying the possibility of setting up a special tax district to exclude the village’s several private communities from the cost of the leaf pick-up.
If that option is chosen, the question then becomes how to allocate the cost, he said: either spread it evenly across every one of the 367 properties served, which he said would mean a special tax of about $130 to $140 levied on each property; or charge according to each lot’s assessed valuation or the size of each property in square feet.
According to a spreadsheet prepared by Village Clerk Eileen Tuohy, the property owners in a special tax district each would pay from $16 to $1,800 more in taxes if they were charged according to assessed valuation under the current village budget and assessed valuation. If they were charged according to lot size, they would pay from about $20 to $2,350 more.
If the leaf pick-up were canceled completely, the tax rate would decrease from its current rate of $.4943 per $1,000 of assessed valuation to $.4694, a decrease of 5 percent.
If a special tax district were created, the lower rate would apply to those properties not included in its boundaries. Properties inside the tax district would be charged $.7146 per $1,000 of assessed valuation if it was based on value. If they were charged according to lot size, the rate would fall to $.00179 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.
Ms. Tuohy said this week that the Village Board had to make a decision by January in order to create the special tax district — if that option is chosen — before the next fiscal year’s budget is prepared.