Le Moyne purchases house for Pestello

Photo+by+Amy+Diffenbacher

Photo by Amy Diffenbacher

Aubrey Zych, Staff Writer

In just a few short weeks, Le Moyne College president Fred Pestello and his family will be moving into the college’s very first official presidential house.

The new home is located approximately four miles away from campus, at 5016 Worthington Way in the Waterford Woods subdivision of DeWitt, N.Y. It was purchased for $575,000 in February by the Falcone family, well-known philanthropists of the college.

In the past, Le Moyne College presidents have lived in the on-campus Jesuit residence. However, this was not a viable option for Pestello, as he is the college’s first permanent lay president. Pestello currently resides in an apartment on East Genesee Street in Syracuse, N.Y.

The new home will also be used by future Le Moyne College presidents and will host various college events throughout the year.

Pestello and his wife, Frances, who began teaching at the college last August, plan to move in mid- to late-May. The couple’s son, Freddie, who transferred to Le Moyne as a junior this year, will continue living on campus in the fall.

“It’s good for us to be together in one place again,” Pestello said. “I think it’ll be good for us to have a place where we can spread out a little bit and entertain others. After living in an apartment for the past four years, I look forward to living in a house again.”

According to the Onondaga County Real Property Tax website, the home will have an annual tax bill of about $20,000.

However, the college is currently in discussion with the town of DeWitt over whether the home will be tax-exempt. According to Jean Rayfield, DeWitt’s assessor, the home will qualify as exempt since it is owned by the non-profit college.

The discussion over whether the home will be tax-exempt has raised controversy among DeWitt residents.

Bob Jackson, a resident of the town of DeWitt, wrote to The Post-Standard arguing that the taxpayers of DeWitt will now have to pay more to make up for the new home.

“Le Moyne College’s purchase of a half-million dollar McMansion is not what taxpayers intended when they granted a property tax exemption for educational institutions,” Jackson wrote. “It is so egregious for the Jesuit institution to buy such an elaborate home far from campus when every previous college president took a vow of poverty.”

Students also expressed discontent for the college’s purchase, complaining that the president is moving into a new home while many students are getting crammed into old dorm rooms.

“I understand that it’s beneficial in the long run, but this was awful timing,” junior Calla Rogers wrote on Le Moyne’s Facebook page when the purchase was announced. “Honestly, the students deserve to live comfortably before the President does. The housing situation here is ridiculous for some people.”

However, according to Walter Benson, chair of the Le Moyne Board of Trustees, the purchase is not just a home for the Pestello family, but an investment for the college and its future presidents.

With the decreasing number of Jesuit priests on campus, the president’s home will likely serve as the home for most other future presidents and their families.

“Given the fact that Le Moyne now has a lay president, purchasing a residence for the president and his family is a prudent investment for the college,” Benson concluded.