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Asharoken horse farm tax break to hit local schools hard

Celene Kudriavetz, of Asharoken, works on a cross

Celene Kudriavetz, of Asharoken, works on a cross country jump at Sandpiper Farm in Asharoken on Nov. 4, 2015. The farm's taxes have been lowered 87.5 percent following a yearslong legal fight with the Town of Huntington over whether the land's two parcels should be assessed at agricultural rates. Credit: Johnny Milano

A 440-acre Asharoken horse farm is getting a $775,000, or 87.5 percent, tax break in 2016-17, the result of a settlement with the Town of Huntington that will hit Northport-East Northport Schools the hardest.

The property known as Sandpiper Farm will pay about $110,000 in property taxes for 2016-17, compared with more than $885,000 the year before, according to tax documents.

The reduction followed a yearslong legal fight with Huntington Town over whether the land’s two parcels qualify as a farm and thus should be assessed at significantly lower agricultural rates.

“We are delighted that the taxes have been adjusted to reflect the agricultural use of the property,” said Jon Santemma, Sandpiper’s Uniondale-based attorney in the case. “It will enable the farm to continue in existence for the foreseeable future. That was the goal all along.”

Northport-East Northport Schools receives the bulk — about 77 percent — of the property’s taxes, which will be less than $85,000 for 2016-17, representing an almost $600,000, or 87.6 percent, drop in revenues from Sandpiper’s tax levy.

The loss in revenue comes as the school district is asking voters to pass a nearly $40 million bond referendum on Feb. 28.

Northport-East Northport also currently has tens of millions of tax levy dollars at stake in a LIPA lawsuit in which the authority claims National Grid’s Northport power plant has been significantly overassessed in taxes for years.

LIPA pays about $73 million annually in taxes on the power plant, and is seeking a lower tax rate, as well as payment for past years it says it was charged at too-high of a rate.

It was unclear how or if the decrease in revenue would translate to higher taxes for residents.

John Gross, the district’s Hauppauge-based attorney, disputed the amount of revenue shortfall.

“The budget doesn’t lose any money,” Gross said. “Every other taxpayer pays a little bit more to make up the loss.”

Sandpiper Farm will still have to qualify each year for agricultural status with the town: New York State law requires farms of its size and type to generate revenue of at least $10,000, on average, over the prior two years.

The town and Sandpiper still have not finalized an agreement on how much Huntington will reimburse the farm for prior years it was taxed at the higher, non-agricultural rate, Santemma said.

The farm had sought relief dating to 2010 during the court case preceding the settlement.

It was unclear when the parties would finalize how much the town will repay Sandpiper for past assessments, Santemma said. When a figure is agreed upon, Suffolk County will pay the farm and bill Huntington for the amount, he said.

Town officials declined to comment Wednesday.

The Village of Asharoken will also be affected, but Mayor Greg Letica declined to comment on the issue late Tuesday.


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