Supervisors want state reimbursement for unpaid Cayuga Indian Nation taxes

By: David L. Shaw

WATERLOO — The state provides Madison and Oneida counties with up to $1.5 million annually to compensate for property taxes not paid by the Oneida Indian Nation.

Seneca and Cayuga counties face a similar situation with the Cayuga Indian Nation.

The Cayugas owe more than $1 million in back taxes on property it owns. However, the state doesn’t reimburse Seneca or Cayuga counties, and the Seneca County Board of Supervisors wants to know why.

At Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors directed County Attorney Frank Fisher to write a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and key legislators asking them to include $1.5 million in the 2014-15 state budget to reimburse the two counties for unpaid tribal taxes.

Supervisor Bob Shipley, R-Waterloo, chairs the Board of Supervisors’ Indian Affairs Committee. He and Supervisor Don Earle, R-Seneca Falls, attended the New York State Association of Counties meeting Feb. 4, and conversed with state Sen. Mike Nozzolio, R-54 of Fayette, Assemblymen Brian Kolb, R-131 of Canandaigua, and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano, R-132 of Corning.

“Our primary request in meeting with them was the Cayuga Nation’s continued refusal to pay property taxes on nearly 1,100 acres of Seneca County land it owns, representing a $1.2 million shortfall in town, county and school taxes,” Shipley reported.

Shipley said the county petitioned the state Legislature in a similar manner last year.

“We have asked our legislators to jointly ask Gov. Cuomo to include similar monies in the state budget to compensate Seneca County,” Shipley said.

The county has taken the Cayugas to court in an effort to foreclose on delinquent properties. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to issue a ruling later this year.

“And, an unfavorable ruling will then require U.S. Supreme Court intervention, with best-case action during 2015 or 2016,” Shipley noted. “Therefore, the most prudent course of action for Seneca County in this matter lies with New York state.”

Also Tuesday, Fisher said the governor’s proposed settlement of issues between Madison and Oneida counties and the Oneida Indian Nation has resulted in those two counties becoming less involved in the NYSAC Indian Affairs Committee.

Fisher noted the chairman of the Cayuga County Legislature is now the head of that NYSAC committee, and that Seneca and Cayuga counties may need to “step up” and take a leadership role on Indian issues.

In other action Tuesday:

• HONORED: Wendy Dressing, staff resource assistant at the county Community Counseling Center, was recognized as “Employee of the Quarter” for the third quarter of 2013.

• TIRES: Catherine Lasher of Seneca Meadows Landfill touted the landfill’s tire recycling program.

She reported that the Seneca Falls facility recycled 150,000 tires in January and recycles about 2 million tires in a typical year. Local residents are charged less than non-county residents, she said.

Lasher said the facility buys local goods and services, provides a valuable environmental service, and hires local people, including veterans.

• MANAGER: The deadline to apply for the vacant county manager position is Saturday.

A search committee will begin reviewing the applications Monday. There have been 29 applicants to date, 17 of whom remain under consideration.

• PHYSICIANS: Supervisors voted 14-0 to pay Finger Lakes Health $70,000 for mandated medical services at the county Correctional Facility. Dr. Philip Wirth, Dr. Andrew Reese and Nurse Practitioner Susan Green will tend to those duties.

The trio succeeds Dr. Pang Kooi of Auburn and physician’s assistant Thomas Fletcher of Seneca Falls, both of whom resigned. They were being paid $38,000.

• CONTRACT: The board approved a new, retroactive contract with the Sheriff’s Department Police Benevolent Association, which represents 27 law enforcement officers, by a 13-1 vote. The contract is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2012, and expires Dec. 31, 2015.

Supervisor Keith Kubasik, R-Waterloo, cast the lone no vote.

• RAISES: By a 13-1 vote, supervisors approved a salary increase for Undersheriff Gary Sullivan, from $66,630 to $69,196, and a hike for jail administrator Roger Ward, from $54,872 to $60,681.

Kubasik was the lone supervisor opposed to the measure.