The recent Auburn Citizen editorial criticizing the Cayuga Indians for re-opening a gambling casino in the village of Union Springs was right on target. But unfortunately, the refusal of the Cayuga Indians to pay their property taxes presents an even greater, and much more pervasive problem for the citizens of Cayuga and Seneca Counties.
By refusing to pay their fair share of property taxes on the properties that the Cayuga Indians purchased from individual homeowners and local businesses, the Cayugas are robbing the taxpayers of Cayuga and Seneca Counties of nearly $1.7 million in unpaid property taxes. And worse yet, this financial burden is growing each year.
The only thing worse than taxation is taxation administered unfairly. This inequity forces the hardworking taxpayers in both counties to make up the difference in tax revenue. The Cayugas knew full well when they purchased the property that they were under the same obligation you and I have to pay our property taxes.
Their refusal to pay their fair share of property taxes hurts our school children, as well as the small businesses in our communities that cannot compete with Cayuga owned businesses that pay no property or sales taxes, and who refuse to obey the same laws and regulations as their neighbors. In fact, a number of local gas stations and convenience stores have been forced to close because of the continued refusal of the Cayugas to follow the law and compete on a level playing field.
As highlighted in last week's Citizen editorial, the Cayugas currently have a land-into-trust application pending before the United States Department of the Interior in Washington, D.C. .
If the Cayugas are granted land-into-trust status they will be allowed to occupy, develop and reap the financial rewards from land in Cayuga and Seneca Counties without having to obey virtually any local, state and federal laws regulating the size, scope and construction of building projects. Additionally, property taxes could never be collected from property that has been granted land-in-trust status and the Cayuga Indians would not have to comply with the same environmental regulations as other local property owners.
The stakes have never been higher – the more land in our community that the Cayugas purchase and then refuse to pay taxes on - the more devastating the financial impact will be on generations to come.
If the land that has been purchased by the Cayuga Indians is granted land-into-trust status, it will significantly erode, and eventually destroy the tax base of Cayuga and Seneca Counties. As your New York State Senator, I will continue my efforts to oppose these unfair and ill-conceived policies. Please join me in demanding that the Cayugas pay their property taxes now. Please contact your federal representatives in Washington, as well as officials at the United States Department of the Interior and demand that they deny the Cayugas land-into-trust application. The future of our property tax base in Cayuga and Seneca Counties, as well as the future of our taxpayers hangs in the balance.