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The original item was published from 4/9/2022 1:18:00 PM to 5/3/2023 5:32:37 PM.

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Posted on: April 9, 2022

[ARCHIVED] Press Release From City Manager Stephen Jellie re: SLC Appeal Regarding Tax Foreclosure Authority

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On Friday, 8 April 2022, the City of Ogdensburg submitted a detailed response to the judicial appeal filed by St. Lawrence County in the matter involving the City changing its Charter in regards to Property Tax Foreclosure authority.   The County sued the City over changes made to the City Charter that would relinquish the City’s responsibility for Property Tax Foreclosure to the County and require the County to make the City whole for unpaid City Property Tax as it does for all other Towns and Villages.   The lawsuit originally filed by St. Lawrence County Treasurer Renee Cole sought to block the City from governing itself and made baseless allegations that the County’s ability to govern itself was being impeded by the City and the New York State Constitution being violated; which in reality is as ridiculous as it sounds reading it.   New York State Supreme Court Judge Mary A. Farley acted swiftly on a motion by the City to dismiss the senseless action brought by County Attorney Steven Button, yet County Treasurer Renee Cole remains committed to using taxpayer funds (City and County) to advance the County’s cause and filed an appeal with the Albany based Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court, Third Department .  Within days of the devastating defeat of her lawsuit in the local Supreme Court, Renee Cole retaliated by issuing “no notice” County Property Tax bills to City residents that changed the collection date to January 1, instead of the long standing practice of County Property Tax being collected from City residents in April.  Changing the date to synchronize with all other communities in the County is efficient governing, providing no notice that you are doing it is reckless, retaliatory and displays shocking incompetence on the part of an elected County official.   The attached document is the City’s response to the frivolous appeal from the County and the City looks forward to defending itself in court.   

County Finance Chairmen Kevin Acres, County Services Chairmen Joe Lightfoot, Democratic Caucus Leader Margaret Haggard, County Attorney Steven Button and County Treasurer Renee Cole make up the authoritarian team that is the driving force behind the scenes that pulls the strings of the attack against the only City in St. Lawrence County.   That team’s intent is abundantly clear; total control of all authority and funding.  County Legislative Chairman William Sheridan states repeatedly in public that he supports Ogdensburg while allowing Acres and Lightfoot to make all the radical decisions.  For decades the City of Ogdensburg was forced to make the County whole in regards to unpaid property taxes so it could execute its right to property tax foreclosure and debt collection without the County interfering as a superior local government entity (two local governments cannot foreclose on the same property at the same time).   In late 2019, Kevin Acres and Joe Lightfoot informed the City that they would be cutting the City’s share of sales tax distribution by 50% because several towns had expressed concern that the City was receiving a greater share of sales tax proceeds (the City could find no towns that affirmed this fictional complaint).   Acres and Lightfoot purported that the City should receive the same amount of sales tax proceeds as the Towns and Villages, yet they refuse to provide the same type and level of service to the City as is received by the Towns and Villages from the County.   Then City Mayor Wayne Ashley, Deputy Mayor Dan Skamperle, City Manager Sarah Purdy and City Comptroller Timothy Johnson were powerless to cease the onslaught and were making arrangements to give the County what is wanted in an effort to maintain the false peace that existed between the City and County.  Upon his inauguration in January 2020, County Officials were put on notice that newly elected Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly would not agree to their greedy scheme and ruthless quest for power.   Since then the City of Ogdensburg has forwarded a list of over 10 initiatives to the County that would consolidate local government, remove redundancy and reduce local property tax, however County Administrator Ruth Doyle and County Legislative Chairmen William Sheridan use every tactic to stall, impede and block those initiatives so as not to anger Acres, Lightfoot and their close alley Haggard that only desire greater and more government control and spending.   The County’s obsession with taking as much money from the City resulted in the City pre-empting its rightful share of sales tax proceeds and ceasing the long standing joint sales tax sharing agreement – adding a layer of bureaucracy to a process that is already overflowing with government waste.   

The City received little support from its upper level elected representatives.  James Reagan, County Legislator for Ogdensburg remains silent on every issue unless pressed by constituents, largely due to his employment with Senator Patty Ritchie that forces him to mirror her positions and non-committal actions.   Assemblyman Mark Walczyk aspires to be the next North Country State Senator that will “fight for the North Country” yet he espouses his desire not to involve himself in local matters although he had no problem accepting Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s assistance in quickly dispatching his only real competition in the NY Senate race, and quite frankly, he is not doing much in Albany except making noise in the Democratically controlled legislature so why not do something productive for the River District while you are waiting to be in the majority.  Senator Patty Ritchie declined multiple requests for her assistance in resolving these matters with her former colleagues in Canton, however we now know her attention was tightly focused on hand picking her replacement so as to deny Mark Walczyk the seat and working diligently to influence a city election in favor of a candidate that presides over a large union that contributed thousands to her campaign war chest.   $20.9 MILLION in federal pandemic relief funds continues to be hoarded in the Canton Complex and not a word from any of the above on when those funds will ever make it to the people the President of the United States and Congress intended.   City Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly will soon call on Congresswoman Elise Stefanik for her support of Ogdensburg and resolving these critical issues.   Congresswoman Stefanik displays her support and defense of the North Country and its people, even when the issue is LOCAL.  

Since taking office in January 2020, Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly’s administration established a bold plan to insure the financial survival of the City, and at the same time a definitive course for revival of the City was cast.   The journey to achieve both goals is well supported by the people of Ogdensburg and the City will not return to the heavy handed control of County and State government, overbearing Union influence and entitlements of the loudest minority sacrificing the silent majority.   The only City in St. Lawrence County is on the mend and the progress is unmistakable as is the energy from its people to develop and maintain A BETTER OGDENSBURG.  

To view the City's response, click here.

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