Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bill to give Ramapo yeshiva a tax exemption vetoed by Cuomo 

At the behest of state legislators, the governor has vetoed a bill offering a retroactive tax exemption to an Orthodox Jewish congregation in Ramapo that illegally converted a house into a school.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, and state Sen. David Carlucci, D-New City, said Friday the bill they had originally supported to give the Talmud Torah Ohr Yochanan a 2011 tax exemption was vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill, a fairly routine retroactive property-tax exemption, was passed by the state Legislature in June with support from Jaffee and Carlucci.

But after a fire broke out at the caretaker’s building next door to the school in October, Jaffee and Carlucci backpedaled, saying serious safety issues and building code violations existed at the site. They asked the governor to reject the bill.

An exemption for 2011 would have saved the congregation close to $19,000 for the school and an additional $11,000 for the caretaker’s house.

Jaffee said the Town of Ramapo issued incomplete information on the status of the school, which was used by the Assembly’s Committee on Real Property Taxation to recommend an exemption.

The school’s neighbors have long complained that the school opened illegally inside the single-family house at 97 Highview Road in 2009 without town approvals or a certificate of occupancy. The school is currently operating with a temporary certificate.

The school is fully tax exempt, but the congregation wants a retroactive break for 2011, before the property was taken off the books.

It could again seek a retroactive exemption once the violations are resolved.

“We need to have complete confidence that there are no violations on any of the buildings that we consider for tax exemption,” said Mike Grubiak, Carlucci’s spokesman. “Once we can make that determination, and once we hear back from the town and the school that the violations have been cleared, then we can start the process again.”

Jaffee said she’s implementing changes to make sure future applicants provide proof of a valid certificate of occupancy and show that the property is in compliance with all state, local and fire codes.


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