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Volume 4 - Opinions of Counsel SBEA No. 76

Opinions of Counsel index

School districts exemption (special assessments) (liability for village sewer charges) - Real Property Tax Law, §§ 102(15), 408, 490; Village Law, § 14-1416:

Real property owned by a school district and located in a village is not exempt from special assessments levied for village sewer improvements.

Our opinion has been requested as to the liability of property belonging to a central school district for sewer charges imposed to defray the cost of village sewer facilities located in a village.

According to information received by us, the sewer charges have been assessed on approximately 104 acres of land owned by the school district. Insofar as we can ascertain, the charges were imposed pursuant to authority contained in Articles 14 and 22 of the Village Law. Provisions contained in these laws permit the financing of sewer facilities in villages by assessing the whole or any part of the expense upon property benefited by the facilities, which expense is directed to be apportioned upon the lands within the proposed area of local assessments “in proportion as nearly as may be to the benefit which each lot or parcel will derive therefrom” (Village Law, § 14-1416).

The first question to be considered is - what is the nature of the charge imposed on the school district’s land? If our assumption is correct that the charge is one ascertained pursuant to section 14-1416 of the Village Law, then it is clearly a “special assessment” as defined in subdivision 15 of section 102 of the Real Property Tax Law. There “special assessment” is defined to mean “a charge imposed upon benefited real property in proportion to the benefit received by such property to defray the cost, including operation and maintenance, of a special district improvement or service or of a special improvement or service . . .”.

It has been suggested that a charge such as this is not authorized by section 490 of the Real Property Tax Law. Under the provisions of section 490, property belonging to a school district is made exempt from only two types of special assessments, namely: (1) special assessments imposed on real property located outside cities and villages for a special improvement or service or a special district improvement or service (see, 3 Op.Counsel SBEA No. 56) and (2) special assessments imposed by a county improvement district. (The exemption accorded these two types does not cover special assessments imposed to pay for construction costs of sewer facilities.)

The subject special assessment is not covered by either type. That is, the property is not located outside a city or village (type No. 1) and the special assessment is not imposed by a county improvement district (type No. 2). Therefore, the exemption does not apply to real property located within a village imposed to finance village sewer improvements.

Since real property owned by a school district is only exempt from special assessments to the extent provided in section 490 (Real Property Tax Law, § 408), and special assessments levied for village sewer improvements are not exempt under section 490, it is our conclusion that the property of a central school district is liable for the special assessments levied for the village sewer facilities of a village.

December 24, 1974

NOTE:  But see Opinion 7-88.