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Pamelia supervisor pays state Tax Department 5 years of tax savings to keep Florida benefits

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Lawrence C. Longway, who double-dipped on housing tax exemptions from 2005 to 2010 in New York and Florida, has paid back the tax savings gained here over that period.

The Pamelia supervisor successfully submitted an application to Jefferson County Real Property Tax Services on Sept. 12 to repay $3,539.62 for tax savings he received during the five years he had a STAR tax exemption, along with a Homestead Exemption for his residence in Hillsborough County, Fla. That amount, which included an interest payment of 1 percent for each year, went to the state Department of Taxation and Finance. Mr. Longway also paid a $500 processing fee to the county tax department, Director Paul J. Warneck said.

“In the eyes of New York state, Mr. Longway has remedied any conflict with having a STAR exemption, which should satisfy the situation in the eyes of Florida,” said Mr. Warneck, who sent a letter to the Hillsborough County property appraiser’s office explaining that Mr. Longway has satisfied New York’s demands.

Town supervisor since 2004, Mr. Longway received a STAR exemption for the residence he owned at 23803 Route 37 from 1999 through 2010, Mr. Warneck said. The Times previously reported Mr. Longway had had an exemption since 2004, but further investigation revealed he applied in 1999.

Mr. Longway and his wife, Virginia, still receive a Florida Homestead Exemption for the house they own at 1245 Acappella Lane, Apollo Beach. The couple received homestead benefits in Hillsborough County since 2005, and Mr. Longway previously has claimed to be a permanent resident there since June 1, 2004, on an application he submitted.

Mr. Warneck — who has assisted other applicants who’ve inadvertently received benefits in New York and Florida — said Mr. Longway may not have been cognizant of the conflict with the STAR exemption when he applied for tax relief in Florida. For those deemed to have willfully misrepresented information, stiffer punishments are assessed in New York and Florida. The latter state considers falsifying information a first-degree misdemeanor.

“Since he applied in 1999, I’m sure he doesn’t know the requirements when he actually signed the form,” Mr. Warneck said. “I don’t think it was a purposeful action.”

But Mr. Longway still could face consequences from the Hillsborough County property appraiser office, which is conducting an investigation into the matter. If the office rules that Mr. Longway actually was a resident of New York during years he received tax savings, it would have the authority to recoup tax benefits by placing a lien on the Longways’ house on Tampa Bay. A call made to the property appraiser’s office was not returned Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Longway declined to comment Thursday.

Renouncing exemption benefits here will not affect Mr. Longway’s status as a voter or elected official from 2005 to 2010, said Jerry O. Eaton, Republican commissioner of the Jefferson County Board of Elections. Eligible voters are required to be considered primary residents at the municipality in which they reside, he said. But the Board of Elections is required to examine several criteria to make that determination, such as the status of an individual’s residence, driver’s license and income tax statements. Housing tax exemptions are not specified in the law.

“The state Board of Elections told us his residency status for voting would have been even stronger from 2005 to 2010, because he lived in a house at that time,” Mr. Eaton said, alluding to the fact that Mr. Longway sold his house in January. “The board made a reasonable determination based on the evidence that he qualified to vote in his jurisdiction. He has a vested interest there because he owns multiple businesses, pays income taxes and has a New York driver’s license.”

Since January, Mr. Longway has claimed a commercial building in Pamelia that he owns to be his primary residence: Long-Park Tire at 23751 Route 342. The Board of Elections made that discovery from the petition Mr. Longway signed to enter the primary election as an incumbent to run for town supervisor. Because the town doesn’t have a zoning law prohibiting such a residence, Mr. Longway was deemed an eligible voter by the board and allowed to participate in the election, in which he defeated challenger Scott Allen 149-94.

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