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Mount Vernon Board Of Education Authorizes Lawsuit Against City Over PILOTs

Mount Vernon school officials and residents alike have been against the authorization of PILOT agreements, which offer a financial incentive for developers that may hinder the district.
Mount Vernon school officials and residents alike have been against the authorization of PILOT agreements, which offer a financial incentive for developers that may hinder the district. Photo Credit: Contributed

MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. - The Mount Vernon Board of Education is set to file a lawsuit against the city as they seek a one-year moratorium on PILOT agreements involving the development of residential properties within the district.

Last month , citing a rise in multi-family homes and school district employment, the Board requested that the city put an end to payment in lieu of taxes - more commonly known as PILOT - agreements with housing developers within district limits.

At their last Board meeting, the Board unanimously passed a resolution authorizing their attorney to file a lawsuit against the city, formally requesting the moratorium on PILOT agreements, which offer tax incentives for large, multi-family housing developments that will force district enrollment to eventually swell to potentially untenable levels.

“As trustees, we have a fiduciary obligation to act in good faith to protect the integrity of the educational standards of the district and to act as responsible stewards of the tax dollars on behalf of the citizens of Mount Vernon,” Board President Lesly Zamor said in a statement.

According to the Board, since the district is subject to a tax levy cap which does not take into account additional costs due to an increase in enrollment, the tax cap for the district would be reduced in the first year of the PILOT agreement after two years of financial improvement. The proposed multi-family residential units may also hinder the district’s planned restructuring to a “K-8” model by compromising the physical capacity limitation of schools.

“These types of PILOTs benefit developers at the expense of our students,” Schools Superintendent Kenneth Hamilton said. “If we do not get the tax dollars and state aid needed to support the anticipated increase in student population from these developments, we will be forced to pierce the tax cap or slash programs such as art, music and athletics to make up the budget gap that we have spent the last two years restoring. It’s unacceptable.”

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