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Long IslandEducation

Nassau owes $1.3M in Fashion Institute of Technology fees, court says

Fashion Institute of Technology is pictured at 227

Fashion Institute of Technology is pictured at 227 West 27 St. in Manhattan on Feb. 28, 2016. Photo Credit: John Roca

The Town of North Hempstead has won a lawsuit against Nassau County regarding more than $1 million in Fashion Institute of Technology fees, after a year of legal sparring.

Last week, a panel of four judges from the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division decided in favor of the town, rejecting the county’s attempt to claim a portion of tuition for residents attending FIT, which is in Manhattan.

This is the third lawsuit between the town and Nassau over FIT chargebacks.

Under state education law, Nassau is entitled to collect a portion of community college tuition fees from its three towns and two cities. In 2010, the county began charging its municipalities for the difference between out-of-county and in-county tuition rates for residents attending community college, an amount totaling millions.

Suffolk County has charged its towns for FIT chargebacks since 2012, Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a spokeswoman for Suffolk Executive Steve Bellone, previously told Newsday.

As of the fall, there were 616 Nassau students and 623 Suffolk students attending FIT, said SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis.

In 2015, Nassau sought to retroactively reclaim funds for school years prior to 2010. When Nassau then seized $1.3 million in withheld sales tax proceeds from North Hempstead to account for the 2004-2005 school year, the town filed suit. Over the past year, the litigation has winded through multiple courts.

Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth said in a Monday statement that the Appellate Division decision was gratifying.

“The county punched a hole in our 2016 budget, and we said they did not have that right,” Bosworth added.

The $1.3 million has yet to be returned, said Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin, but the town’s legal team remains optimistic that the funds will be back “by the end of the year.”

The loss of the funds is “still having a tremendous financial impact on the town and its ability to budget,” said Deputy Town Attorney Amanda Abata. The town has resorted to borrowing from its highway fund to cover the cash shortage, according to court documents.

Since 2010, the town has paid more than $5.2 million in chargebacks, and was most recently charged about $40,000 for all community college charges for the first quarter of 2017, said Town spokeswoman Carole Trottere. A specific figure for FIT charges was not available.

North Hempstead is the only municipality to sue over the 2004-2005 claim, though Nassau has also charged the towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay, and the cities of Glen Cove and Long Beach. Oyster Bay Town’s bill from July to March of this year amounted to $41,842, said spokesman Brian Devine. The city of Long Beach was charged $35,032, said spokesman Gordon Tepper. To date, Hempstead Town has not received any bills for the 2016-2017 school year, said spokesman Mike Deery.

Nassau has not filed an appeal as of Tuesday. Nassau Attorney Carnell Foskey could not be reached for comment.

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