Some Franklin County legislators were angry when the final tax-break agreement was reached for the Noble Chateaugay Windpark and Noble Bellmont Windpark.
During talks to determine how much Noble would pay taxing jurisdictions in lieu of full tax value, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency, each township and the Chateaugay Central School District had representatives there, but no one apparently represented the county.
In the agreement concerning the 129 megawatts of power to be generated at the combined 86 wind turbines in the parks, Noble agreed to pay $8,000 per kilowatt hour to the taxing authorities.
Of that amount, Chateaugay and Bellmont would split $5,000 as host communities, and the remaining $3,000 would be shared by the towns and other taxing jurisdictions.
The School District will get 65 percent, the towns will split another 20 percent, and the county will have the smallest piece, 15 percent.
In a separate negotiation, $1,000 per kilowatt hour of power was promised toward a capital-improvement fund for the IDA to use to further boost economic development.
Some legislators felt betrayed by IDA Executive Director Brad Jackson, who, they thought, should have been looking out for the county’s interests at the negotiating table.
But he said his main responsibility is economic development and answering to his own Board of Directors. He said he continually advised the county to name a representative for the talks, but his words were not heeded.
At least one lawmaker said he felt the county was put in a take-it-or-leave-it position and had no choice but to agree to the payment-in-lieu-of-taxes terms.
Now, to avoid such a situation when the next PILOT agreement comes across their desks, legislators are looking to change the county IDA’s taxing-policy rules, which apply to exemptions for real-property tax, mortgage-recording tax and sales tax.
They asked Jackson to seek bond-counsel advice on whether the county can assign separate PILOT rules for individual projects, such as future wind-farm operations and expected redevelopment at the former Big Tupper Ski Area.
Legislators also want to know if the standard 65-20-15 money split can be modified and what happens if all of the taxing agencies involved do not accept revised portions.
Changing the uniform-tax-exemption policy would seem to ensure the county a larger share of the financial windfall.
But the policy change would come at the expense of school districts.
It will be interesting to see which side taxpayers land on with this issue, since school taxes are probably the second-most significant annual expense to property owners.
25 November 2007
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