NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- New Rochelle School Board President Lianne Merchant waited until the day before the May 19th school elections to make her first ever payment of school taxes on 12 Memorial Highway, a property she owns with her husband in an investment partnership named Westchester Friends Management Group, LLC.
As of last November, Westchester Friends Management Group, LLC owed $35,754.76 in unpaid taxes including $25,162.91. in school taxes. The breakdown was as follows: $16,920.25 in New Rochelle School taxes from 2013, $8,242.66 in New Rochelle School taxes from 2014, $4,410.15 in City of New Rochelle taxes from 2014 and $6,181.70 in Westchester County taxes from 2014.
Up until May 18th, Westchester Friends Management Group, LLC had never paid its schools taxes since it was acquired by the LLC in 2012.
In April of this year, a portion of the school taxes had been outstanding more than two years and converted to a $22,000 lien on the property. The 2013 School Tax Bill for 12 Memorial Highway was $16,920.25. With Penalties of $1,049.06 and $4,060.86 the total amount owed had rise to $22,030.17 by April 2015 at which point it was two years past due and automatically converted to a lien. That debt was never paid and is now carried as a lien against the property. Similarly, there was a lien for $12,143.21 placed against the property before it was sold from RF Realty (Mariano Riviera/Joseph Fosina); unusually that lien was not paid off when the property changed hands so there is currently about $36,000 in liens against the property.
On May 18, 2015, the outstanding 2014 tax bill of $17,436.42 was paid which consists of a fall school tax payment of $7,925.64 and a spring school tax payment of $7,925.65 plus interest of $1,585.13.
The effect is to clear the New Rochelle tax portal of any "outstanding" school tax bills by paying one and allowing the other to convert to a lien which creates the illusion that Lianne Merchant does not have any debt to school district directly or through any "related party" so that she can deny being indebted to the School District publicly and in her 2015 annual Disclosure Form due to be filed next month.
It is a bit late for these sort of games.
As a school board member, Lianne Merchant is required to file an annual Disclosure Form filed with the District's external auditors each July. Talk of the Sound obtained Merchant's disclosure form under a Freedom of Information request/ In a filing signed by Lianne Merchant, dated July 19, 2014, Merchant answered "no" when asked on the form "Have you or any related party of yours been indebted to the School District at any time since July 1, 2013?" Based on the LLC’s debt on the 12 Memorial Property, a related party, she should have answered “yes”. It would appear Merchant made a material false statement in her 2014 disclosure forms, filed shortly after she was elected board president by the school board.