The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, over a two justice dissent, determined that maintenance fees imposed by the town for trimming and removing brush from private property are not taxes. Therefore the town cannot seek credit from the county for unpaid maintenance fees:
Section 936 (1) of the RPTL [Real Property Tax Law] provides that the county guarantees the town’s “taxes” by crediting the town “with the amount of . . . unpaid delinquent taxes.” The question raised on this appeal is whether the maintenance charges are “taxes” for the purposes of RPTL 936 and thus whether the County respondents must credit the Town petitioners for the amount of any such charge that goes unpaid or is delinquent.
The maintenance charges are assessed against individual properties for their benefit and thus do not fall within the general definition of “tax,” which instead contemplates ” public burdens imposed generally for governmental purposes benefitting the entire community’ ” … . Nor do those charges constitute “special ad valorem levies” as defined by RPTL 102 (14). A ” [s]pecial ad valorem levy’ ” is “a charge imposed upon benefitted real property in the same manner and at the same time as taxes for municipal purposes to defray the cost, including operation and maintenance, of a special district improvement or service” (id.). Although the definition of “tax” does, in certain enumerated circumstances, include “special ad valorem levies” (RPTL 102 ), the maintenance charges are not special ad valorem levies because they are not used to defray the cost of a “special district improvement or service” (RPTL 102 ). Maintenance charges also are not assessed “ad valorem” because the amount of the charge is not based on property value but is instead based on the actual expense to the town. Moreover, assuming, arguendo, that the charges are “special assessments” as defined by RPTL 102 (15), we note that the definition of “tax” specifically excludes “special assessments” (RPTL 102 ). Matter of Town of Irondequoit v County of Monroe, 2019 NY Slip Op 06235, Fourth Dept 8-22-19