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Court denies latest Nassau bid to withhold $1.3M in FIT fees

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. Credit: John Roca

The New York State Court of Appeals has denied Nassau County’s latest motion for an appeal to continue litigating over $1.3 million in Fashion Institute of Technology fees withheld from the Town of North Hempstead.

The decision comes after more than a year of legal sparring and the state Appellate Court’s May judgment in favor of the town, rejecting the county’s attempt to claim a portion of tuition for residents attending Manhattan-based FIT.

Town officials said litigation had reached the last possible step, because the Court of Appeals is the highest court in the state. The latest motion was denied in a June 29 ruling.

“It’s the end of the litigation and now we move on with getting our money back,” said Deputy Town Attorney Amanda Abata.

The County “intends to fully comply with the decision of the lower court,” said County Attorney Carnell Foskey on Wednesday.

Under state education law, Nassau is permitted 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, a cost amounting to millions of dollars.

Five years later, Nassau began retroactively reclaiming funds for school years prior to 2010. The town filed suit when Nassau withheld $1.3 million in the town’s sales tax proceeds to account for the 2004-05 school year.

This past fall, there were 616 Nassau students and 623 Suffolk students enrolled at FIT, SUNY spokeswoman Holly Liapis previously told Newsday.

Town officials said they are optimistic that the withheld tax money will be returned by the end of the year. Town Attorney Elizabeth Botwin said the town will “begin by asking nicely” and that she thought the county wanted to be “law-abiding.”

“Hopefully the county will see that it’s over and return our $1.3 million,” Botwin added. “If not, we move on to the legal remedies that we have available to us.”

The loss of the funds has affected the town’s financial operations, forcing the town to borrow 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 FIT fees.

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