In 2018, Skaneateles town officials raised the property tax assessment on Destiny USA partner Bruce Kenan’s two lakefront mansions to $7 million.
Unhappy with that, Kenan went to court and argued that was too high, that they really should be valued at $2.7 million. They settled somewhere in the middle: $4.7 million.
Then, less than a year later, Kenan put the properties up for sale.
Kenan’s asking price? $8.4 million.
That’s three times the amount he argued in court they were worth.
The Kenans are like other wealthy landowners in New York who use their money and lawyers to negotiate more favorable tax bills, town Assessor Michael Maxwell said.
Maxwell said he sees it again and again in Skaneateles and in Lake George, a ritzy Adirondack town where he is also a part-time assessor.
“The whole thing to me is just a slap in everybody else’s face,” Maxwell said.
Kenan’s lawsuit paid off. The assessment reduction could save him and future owners tens of thousands of dollars a year in property taxes.
The town, county, village and school taxes on a $7 million property would cost about $161,000 a year. The taxes on a $5 million property would be $115,000.
Every million dollars that gets knocked off of a lakeside mansion assessment pushes $23,000 onto other taxpayers.
The town agreed to lower Kenan’s assessment at the same time neighboring properties were selling for millions of dollars over their assessed values.
John Mezzalingua, CEO of JMA Wireless, paid $11 million for the property