Judge dismisses lawsuit centered on Ogdensburg property tax dispute

Published: Dec. 11, 2021 at 1:20 PM EST
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CANTON, New York (WWNY) - Ogdensburg City Manager Stephen Jellie is claiming victory in the city’s effort to shift the burden of uncollected city property taxes onto St. Lawrence County.

In a ruling Friday, Supreme Court Judge Mary Farley dismissed a petition by the county that sought to block the move.

The city has said it deserves the same treatment as villages and towns, where the county makes them whole for uncollected taxes.

In a statement Friday night, Jellie wrote, “The City of Ogdensburg will not allow the County to dictate how the City governs itself, and it will not allow Legislators Lightfoot and Acres to continue their well orchestrated plan to reduce the amount of sales tax revenue the City receives while refusing to provide the services to the County is required to do by law, and that it provides to all the other towns and villages in the County.”

The city law at the center of the lawsuit is an amendment to the city charter that has the county handling enforcement of delinquent city taxes, along with foreclosures and crediting Ogdensburg for unpaid city taxes.

In her ruling, Judge Mary Farley makes clear that the city law is limited to enforcement, and not collection of city taxes,

“...and contrary to the assumptions of both the County and City, the Local Law by its terms does not concern collection powers or duties of either the City of County with respect to real property taxes,” Judge Farley wrote.

Jellie tells 7 News Ogdensburg will continue to collect city property taxes.

The county had argued, in part, that the local law should be blocked on the grounds that “a local government shall not have the power to adopt local laws which impair the powers of any other local government.”

Judge Farely wrote, “To the contrary, the Local Law increases the County’s tax enforcement powers with respect to delinquent City Taxes. The Court thus rejects the County’s constitutional argument.”

7 News reached out to St. Lawrence County Attorney Stephen Button, who said he won’t comment on the matter until after he briefs county lawmakers Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Ogdensburg lawmakers are set to hold a public hearing on January 10th, on another change to the city charter, affirming the city’s role in enforcing and collecting delinquent City School District taxes.

Judge Farley writes that because the school district plans on submitting its tax certificates to the city before that meeting, she’s granting an preliminary injunction barring the city from making any changes to the way it collects or enforces delinquent school taxes before lawmakers consider and take action on the charter change.

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