Save Your Pennies Money-Saving Tips from the Professionals

One of the most popular attractions at

The Cooperator's 17th Annual Co-op & Condo Expo this past March was the roster of seminars that ran throughout the day at the New York Hilton, drawing standing-room-only crowds to panel discussions about the legal, financial, and managerial concerns of the city's co-ops and condos. Next year's Expo is scheduled for March 16.

One seminar - entitled

"Dollars & Sense: Money Saving Ideas for Your Building" - offered tips on how to trim substantial numbers from their building's bottom line. The three-man panel was moderated by Peter Grech, president of the New York Superintendents Technical Association and a building super himself for nearly 30 years, and included Robert Mackoul, president of Long Island-based insurance brokerage Mackoul & Associates Inc., and Neil A. Sonenberg, a partner with Rosen Seymour Shapss Martin & Co., CPAs. The three professionals offered some concrete, manageable ideas for boards and managing agents looking to cut unnecessary spending and run a tighter ship. Show Me the Money

"Unfortunately," says Sonenberg, "unlike a "˜normal' corporation where the board is involved in everything on a day-to-day basis, cooperative shareholders tend to funnel daily business out through a managing agent. It's not that the board needs to involve themselves in the minutiae of everything, but they should be involved and proactive."

According to Sonenberg, "There are certain expenses on a co-op's books that are not variable. Those are your mortgage interest expense numbers, and your real estate taxes. There's not a whole lot you can do on that, but you can petition the city to reduce your real estate taxes every year. At minimum, you should make sure you've got a certiorari attorney to file your taxes. Not every co-op in the world gets a tax rebate, but it's worth it to do the work and file."

And there's more, says Sonenberg. "Another thing is the "˜J-51' tax abatement. When a building undergoes a large capital improvement - such as installing a new elevator, for example - it may be eligible for a J-51 tax abatement, which lowers real estate taxes. A development in the Bronx we're working with just put in new elevators and windows and was eligible for huge tax abatements. It's a good thing to look into."

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