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Could be the end of our club as we know it.

A three year battle has come down to the pending ruling of a judge. We are a non-profit club, no paid staff. The founding members put together a plan and supporting rules in 1973 to make this a "blue collar" yacht club where boating would be affordable for the average guy. Although the dues and dock fees have slowly increased over the years, it remains the most affordable place in our area to have a boat. The members built the clubhouse, improved the grounds from the original swamp they leased from the Port Authority and continue to maintain the club without a paid staff. About 12 years ago the members came up with a plan to modernize the place, they added a pool, big hot tub, outdoor tiki bar and three picnic shelters, but also decided the original fixed docks had to be replaced. They were made from donated railroad rail and pipe that were built during the winter months when the guys could work out on the frozen basin. These guys built a huge new break wall to make the basin larger, it took two years. We joined nine years ago and helped with the removal of the old fixed docks and installation of the new floating dock system. We have a fine looking club now.

Three years ago the local taxing bodies of the city, county and school district did a reassessment of the property within city limits. At that time the annual taxes for the club were roughly $5,000. FYI, our annual operating budget is roughly $200,000, the majority of that goes towards paying off the loan taken out for the break wall and floating docks, that will be paid off in two years. Based on the improvements the members did, we were reassessed at $600,000, taxes went to $20,000 a year. There was a process in place where you could protest the reassessment which we did, but also paid the taxes under protest. We went through the re-assessment panel which got us nowhere. From there we went through an arbitration, during that process we were re-reassessed at roughly $1.2 million, taxes were raised to $40,000 a year. We hired attorneys who started through a legal battle of being unfairly taxed for converted swampland and continued through a couple more judges in the process. At that time the taxing bodies brought in their own attorneys and consultants from the Buffalo area and argued that our floating docks were actually permanent structures and could be taxed as such. The result of that court battle was that our re-re-reassessment was to $2.1 million and the taxes were raised to $80,000 a year. This past week we had the last court appearance with our attorney and consultant where they argued that the floating docks were floating docks, held in place by a series of pins and clips, quick disconnects on the power and water and could be moved in a matter of days. The final chapter is now in the hands of a judge to make a ruling. Should he find for the taxing bodies we will need to pay the $80,000 for this year plus the difference in back taxes for the last three years. A pretty tall order out of a budget that is set up for $5,000 a year. The increase in dues and fees to pay the new taxes will be out of the range of the current membership and will most certainly put us out of business. We should find out what happens in the next few weeks. $20,000 a year looks like a real bargain now but who knew??

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