CHATEAUGAY –– The Board of Education has voted not to allow a tax exemption for solar or wind projects within the school district boundaries –– a move school officials say is intended to ensure them a seat at the table during negotiations for a PILOT for the Jericho Rise wind farm.
The Franklin County Industrial Development Agency has been negotiating with representatives of EDP Renewables, the parent company of Jericho Rise Windfarm LLC, over a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement that would enable the company to make specified payments to the affected communities rather than paying property taxes. Such agreements usually involve sums far less than what the company would owe in taxes –– a situation many companies say is necessary for a project to be financially viable.
The school board voted unanimously last week to reject a tax exemption for wind and solar projects contained in state law, effectively blocking a PILOT within the school district boundaries.
“The tax exemption made available by Section 487 of the Real Property Tax Law shall not be applicable within the boundaries of the Chateaugay Central School District with respect to any solar or wind energy system constructed subsequent to the date of this resolution,” the board resolution states.
The proposed 37-tower wind farm would locate 29 towers in the town of Chateaugay and eight in the town of Bellmont –– both of which are covered by the school district.
CCS Superintendent Loretta Fowler said the resolution should not been seen as board opposition to the wind farm project, merely an attempt to ensure the district’s concerns are heard during PILOT negotiations.
“We want a benefit for all taxpayers, and we want to agree to a fair PILOT,” she said. “We will all work together to have a fair PILOT.”
Without the resolution, the school district could find itself shut out of the negotiations, Fowler said. She called the action a negotiating tool.
IDA CEO John Tubbs said he only became aware of the board’s action Thursday morning and didn’t know what the implications would be for the communities involved or for the PILOT talks.
Jericho Rise Project Manager Aron Branam said that, not being a tax attorney, he could not comment on the resolution and its fallout but said “we are also interested in a fair bargaining position with the school.”
Bellmont Supervisor H. Bruce Russell and Chateaugay Supervisor Don Bilow referred questions about the resolution to Fowler.
The IDA has been discussing a possible PILOT agreement with Jericho Rise since at least December.
The company recently completed tree-clearing operations on the proposed tower sites and along the routes of access roads that will be used to reach those locations. Company officials have said they hope to begin construction on the pads and towers this summer, with commercial operation possible by the fall.
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