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Posted on: December 28, 2021

Press Release From City Manager Stephen Jellie Regarding County Property Tax Collection

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The following information is provided to City of Ogdensburg Taxpayers and Residents in an effort to clarify the recent announcement by St. Lawrence County Treasurer Renee Cole that she will unilaterally change the date that St. Lawrence County Property Taxes are collected from City of Ogdensburg residents with less than 30 days notice.  

FACTS:

  • The City has no information other than what is contained in the bulletin posted by County Treasurer Renee Cole on 21 December 2021 - please click here to read the bulletin.   Renee Cole never made any effort to discuss this matter with City Officials.   Please call the County Treasurer’s Office at 315-379-2234.  If you do not receive a response, please call the County Administrator at 315-379-2276, or County Attorney at 315-379-2269.   
  • Your City tax bill will continue to be received in April.   The amount of the City tax bill will be reduced from previous years as the County Property Tax will be collected in January.  
  • If you have a mortgage on your property, you should notify your lender of this change.  Your escrow account balance may need to be increased.  
  • After months of stonewalling by St. Lawrence County Legislative Chairman William Sheridan, Legislators Joseph Lightfoot and Kevin Acres, County Administrator Ruth Doyle and County Attorney Stephen Button, the Ogdensburg City Council voted unanimously to change the City Charter on 13 September 2021 to cease the practice of Property Tax Foreclosure and relinquish its authority to the County, to cease the practice of collecting County Property Tax for no compensation and to cease the practice of paying the County for uncollected property tax in the City – all which are legally authorized by New York State Real Property Tax Law.   The County challenged the changes to the City Charter in the areas Property Tax Foreclosure in Supreme Court and the lawsuit was DISMISSED with the City’s Charter changes AFFIRMED.      
  • St. Lawrence County could have notified City Official and Taxpayers on 14 September 2021, but they didn’t and they refused to discuss their plans other than in secret executive sessions.          
  • The City of Ogdensburg was not aware of the change to the Property Tax Collection date until the notice was posted on December 21, 2021.    
  • The City of Ogdensburg made clear several months ago that without a new agreement, the City would cease collecting County Property Tax.   Chairman Sheridan talked about the County’s acceptance of this fact on a TV interview with WWNY in August.   Chairman Sheridan indicated the County’s desire to change the date of property tax collection but provided no specifics.  
  • The City Manager and County Legislators David Forsythe and James Reagan inquired on multiple occasions to determine what the County’s Plan was for collecting property tax and if the date for collection would change; NO RESPONSE from Doyle or Cole.
  • The City Manager sent an email on 14 December 2021, asking the County Administrator for clarification of the County Tax Collection date; NO RESPONSE from Doyle
  • St. Lawrence County Treasurer Renee Cole participated minimally in the entire negotiation process but rather County Attorney Stephen Button was delegated authority to manage the matter.   County Treasurer Renee Cole is an independently elected official, she is not appointed, and she has the ultimate and final responsibility for this matter, however she makes no decisions without the consent and approval of Lightfoot and Acres.  The City questioned on multiple occasions why the County Treasurer was not leading the negotiation and changes in this matter instead of the appointed County Attorney: NO REPSONSE from Sheridan or Doyle.    County Attorney Stephen Button affirmed on multiple occasions his absolute sole authority to negotiate.   
  • St. Lawrence County Treasurer Renee Cole was not aware until recently that County Property Tax was collected in April each year until advised by the City.   During most all of the discussion County Treasurer Renee Cole relied on her deputies to respond to all questions as she has little knowledge of the topic.  
  • St. Lawrence County Treasurer Cole and County Attorney Button were confident they would obtain a court order to stop the City from making the recently passed changes to the City Charter; they boasted about their confidence to members of the County Legislature.  The lawsuit was DISMISSED and they next retaliated against the City Taxpayers for their loss instead of working with the City to develop a reasonable implementation plan.    This is the FACTUAL reason that City residents were given NO NOTICE.  
  • St. Lawrence County wants the City to continue paying them for property taxes uncollected by them in the City of Ogdensburg – for 2021 that will cost the City over $251,000.   The County reimburses all the Towns and Villages in St. Lawrence County for their uncollected property taxes.
  • Two local governmental entities cannot foreclose on the same property simultaneously, therefore the only way that the City of Ogdensburg could ever execute its foreclosure authority is to pay the County all they are owed first to keep the County from foreclosing and pushing the City out of the process and losing all opportunity to collect.  The County wants to FORCE the City to continue paying them so the City can foreclose on properties without the County losing any money. 
  • This abuse of power is what County Attorney Stephen Button doesn’t want you to know, but it is the exact abuse of power that Lightfoot and Acres will use without any hesitation to continue their attempt to destroy the city.      
  • The City of Ogdensburg has less Police Officers because William Sheridan, Joe Lightfoot and Kevin Acres convinced 5 of their colleagues to take $1.6M from the City in 2022.  
  • The City of Ogdensburg has less Firefighters because William Sheridan, Joe Lightfoot and Kevin Acres convinced 5 of their colleagues to take $1.6M from the City in 2022. 
  • The City of Ogdensburg does not have state-of-the-art Enhanced 911 Police Dispatching Services because Ruth Doyle is stalling the efforts to provide the service at the direction of William Sheridan, Joe Lightfoot and Kevin Acres.
  •  St. Lawrence County has no viable Hazardous Material Response capability because Ruth Doyle failed to negotiate a contract with the City of Ogdensburg to provide the service.   Should a hazardous material emergency occur, response team from Franklin or Jefferson County must be called to respond.      
  • The City of Ogdensburg used taxpayers’ money to defend itself against a lawsuit from St. Lawrence County and the City is now again using taxpayer money to defend itself against an appeal of the Supreme Court’s decision to DISMISS their lawsuit.   The County is using taxpayer money, much from City taxpayers, to attack the City using an Albany based court.      

St. Lawrence County has blocked, stalled and impeded every effort taken by the Skelly Administration to work collectively with St. Lawrence County.  Beginning well prior to Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly’s election, then County Legislative Chairmen Joseph Lightfoot and Finance Committee Chairmen Kevin Acres proposed a plan to then Ogdensburg Mayor Wayne Ashley and then City Manager Sarah Purdy, that would reduce Ogdensburg’s share of the Sales Tax collection by over 50%, or $1.6M in 2022.   Mayor Ashley and City Manager Purdy attempted to fight back on this greedy plan but they were not successful.   Newly elected Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly committed to stopping the County from this ruthless endeavor and reign over Ogdensburg the day he took office. 

City of Ogdensburg residents, please do not be fooled or misled by the propaganda and spineless accusations coming out of County Treasurer Renee Cole, it is simply fictional spin to avoid the intentionally created disaster that William Sheridan, Joseph Lightfoot, Ruth Doyle and Stephen Button fabricated with their incompetence and desire to rule every local government in St. Lawrence County by controlling all the resources.  Please feel free to call or email Mayor Skelly or myself if you would like more factual information.   Please don’t be fooled by the relentless efforts of the local government disruptors to use this as an opportunity to advance criticism of the proactive changes taking place in the City and don’t rely on the baseless opinion letters written by self-proclaimed experts expressing disappointment that City Leaders no longer pander to County officials determined to destroy the City.  It is sickening that any City resident would congratulate or encourage such action against their city.  The facts in this matter are clear and substantiated.   Sheridan, Lightfoot, Acres, Doyle, Cole and Button are all hiding, and they refuse to comment in a public forum so they are not forced expose that every decision being made is the product of their efforts to control every action of County government without allowing the full legislative body to participate.  They won’t come out of hiding behind their executive sessions because they will be forced to answer for their failures in this matter, they will be forced to answer for the grievous failure of the Department of Social Services, they will be forced to answer how they are spending the additional $9M in sales tax revenue received in 2021 while only returning .17 cents to the taxpayers in 2022, and they will be forced to answer for their fraternity like behavior in protecting a male County Legislator’s self-admitted inexcusable behavior that injured people while previously attempting to force the resignation of a female County Legislator based on accusations that ended up being completely false and fabricated.          

Since taking office in January 2020, Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly has committed to reforming local government, saving the City of Ogdensburg from financial ruin while working equally as hard to accelerate the revival of the City.   The Skelly Administration will not accept the over-reaching and tyrannical action from St. Lawrence County any longer, and their use of false information and blame deflection will only be taken seriously by their followers.   The City of Ogdensburg will continue to pursue the elimination of duplicative services, the streamlining of local government and the drastic reduction of local property taxes regardless of the strong opposition to continue the status quo.   Residents and Taxpayers of St. Lawrence County work hard for their money, and they deserve the efficient use of that money and demand the responsible use of power and expenditure of funds.  

2022 is an opportunity for County Residents to replace each and every corrupt and incompetent County Elected and Appointed Official.   Please encourage your family, friends and neighbors that possess high degrees of integrity, concern for public trust and commitment to reform local government to seek office.   Change is never easy and significant change rarely occurs without a fight, but it will never occur if the residents of St. Lawrence County do not actively participate and get involved now.  

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