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Cash-Strapped Nassau County Goes After 19 School Districts With ‘Toilet Tax’

Schools Attorney: Tax-Exempts Cannot Be Forced To Pay, So Sewer Fee Is Illegal
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(Credit: Clip Art)

(Credit: Clip Art)

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EAST WILLISTON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Schools in Nassau County have joined together to try and flush away a new fee they say will literally drain their budgets.

Every flush in every school could soon cost taxpayers, thanks to a new sewer use fee. However, school districts are fighting back against what they’ve dubbed a “toilet tax,” reports CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff.

“It is absurd,” East Williston School Board President Mark Kamberg said Tuesday.

Especially, critics said, at Wheatley School, which doesn’t even have sewers.

“We have septic tanks and the water seeps into the ground,” Kamberg said.

WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall On The Story

Wheatley’s water goes into its own tanks, the ground or it gets consumed. Yet Wheatley, like all of Nassau’s schools, is expected to pay the new sewer fee imposed by County Executive Ed Mangano, who in effect said for too long not-for-profits have been getting a free flush.

“The free ride is over and homeowners will no longer subsidize this expense,” Mangano said.

However, schools have warned they’ll have to raise taxes to pay the fee.

“They have shifted the burden of sewer tax onto the back of school districts,” Kamberg said.

In all, 19 school districts have joined together to sue Nassau, saying the flushing fee is illegal.

“This is clearly a tax and the reality is that school districts are tax-exempt organizations,” said Greg Guercio, the attorney for the school districts.

The one penny-per gallon fee translates into hundreds of thousands of dollars for bigger school districts. For East Williston, it would amount to $87,000 this year alone.

“For us, it’s a large amount of money. It’s like a teacher salary,” East Williston Assistant Superintendent for Business Jackie Fitzpatrick said.

The fight will likely go to trial. While the case is pending districts don’t have to pay the fee, but have to budget for it, and that could mean raising taxes.

Other not-for-profits like houses of worship and fire houses will not be required to pay the new fee.

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