By Michael Specht, Ramapo Town Supervisor
On Monday the Town of Ramapo and the Village of Suffern announced “a major victory” in a tax assessment case that will help save their residents a significant amount of money. The legal case concerned Novartis Pharmaceutical facility; a 167-acre property located on Old Mill Road in Suffern, as well as other parcels located in Suffern and Montebello. The combined properties make them the top taxpayer in Suffern and one of Ramapo’s biggest taxpayers.
Suffern Partners, LLC, which purchased the complex in 2017 for $30 million, had been challenging its nearly $4.8 million assessment since 2019. The company maintained that the total assessment of the combined parcels should be $696,000. The proposed reduction in 2020 sought by Suffern Partners, LLC, from $41 million to $6 million for the fair market value of the parcels, equals an 85% reduction in its assessment. If the company were successful in its challenge, it would result in $1.36 million in refunds that would have to be spread to the tax bills of other Ramapo residents, thereby leading to a significant tax increase.
In March 2020, the Town became aware that Suffern Partners, LLC had entered into a contract to sell the property for a whopping $55 million, yet the company continued to bring its tax grievance complaint against the Town. Suffern Partners, LLC failed to notify the Town of the impending sale, which it was required to do. Instead, the company continued pursuing legal action against the Town, even though the contract price was approximately $14 million higher than the current market value of $41 million. When the Town discovered the existence of the sales contract and the company’s willful neglect to duly notify the Town, its attorney Dylan C. Harris of Lewis & Greer, P.C., filed a motion to dismiss Suffern Partners, LLC’s lawsuit.
The Town recently received a signed stipulation of discontinuance, which is tantamount to an acknowledgment by Suffern Partners, LLC that it failed to comply with the NYS Real Property Tax Law and effectively ends the company’s legal challenge once and for all.
“This is a huge victory for the average taxpayer in Ramapo and Suffern,” said Ramapo Supervisor Michael B. Specht. “Suffern Partners, LLC exhibited egregious behavior throughout this process and acted in bad faith as they attempted to save millions in taxes that they legally owed. This is a company that tried to exploit the system without any regard for the adverse economic impact it would have on our Town and Village residents, and we are pleased that justice prevailed. Ramapo taxpayers should never have to foot the bill for a big business that seeks to gain a financial advantage through underhanded and unpardonable means.”
“We are very grateful that this unfortunate matter has finally come to an end and that the positive outcome will benefit taxpayers throughout Suffern and Ramapo,” said Suffern Mayor Edward Markunas. “By working together with the Town of Ramapo to fight on behalf of our residents against a greedy company that attempted to take advantage of the system through a frivolous legal action, we were thankfully able to score a big win for the people of Suffern and Ramapo and protect our taxpayers’ pocketbooks.