Fear of taxes, or of Hasidim?

Posted on 27 August 2013 by Community Voice NY

Proposed school for girls raises tax worry for Pine Bush district

By Steve Israel
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM – 08/27/13

BLOOMINGBURG — The school district says a proposed private school for girls would mean higher taxes for thousands.

The school’s developer, Shalom Lamm, says the school — to serve his proposed 396-townhouse development in Bloomingburg — would actually be a boon to the taxpayers of the Pine Bush School District.

And some fear that the school is more proof that Lamm is building a huge Hasidic community in this village of a few hundred people, even though not one home has been sold, the Chestnut Ridge project has yet to be marketed or built, and Lamm has not said what sort of school it would be.

Strip away the rumors and these are the facts: Lamm, who also owns Wurtsboro Airport, wants to build a 16-room private school for girls in an 18,000-square-foot building in downtown Bloomingburg. An analysis of the fiscal impact prepared for Lamm says the school would be “for the new Chestnut Ridge community.”

The zoning permits a school, says Bloomingburg Planning Board Chairman Russ Wood. The Planning Board will hold its first meeting about the project on Thursday.

As for what sort of school?

“It is as yet undefined,” Lamm said.

“Whether it’s Hasidic, Christian, or whatever, it is what it is,” Wood said. “They’re Americans. They have a right to live there.”

Lamm is well aware that some fear the school means Chestnut Ridge would be a Hasidic townhouse development. So he asks this rhetorical question: “Would we even be having this discussion if the application said ‘The St. Ignatius Loyola School’?”

Yes, we would, says Pine Bush schools Superintendent Joan Carbone. In a letter to Wood, Carbone expresses the district’s “concern” that the school “will substantially impact the taxpayers of our school district.”

Carbone notes that because state law requires local public school districts to provide such services as “transportation, special education, health and welfare, textbooks and technology” to students in private schools, “the local taxpayers would incur another burden.”

But Lamm’s fiscal analysis says the school — and the Chestnut Ridge development — would actually benefit the district. At a “very low-end market value” of $225,000 per townhome, it says, Lamm’s development would mean annual school taxes of $2.2 million. After expenses, the entire project would “easily yield a net contribution of well above $600,000 annually” to the district, the analysis said.

Meanwhile, some opponents of the Chestnut Ridge development say the school is more proof that a Hasidic community is coming to this village.

“If a girls’ school is built, a boys’ is sure to follow,” says Nikki Latreille, who lives in the Pine Bush School District.

Latreille fears the Pine Bush district could one day be run by people “without the best interest of all the children.”

“And it’s not a matter of anti-Semitism,” Latreille said. She noted that her son’s bar mitzvah was conducted by the Chabad Lubavitch group of Goshen.



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