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Fenner residents will see tax hike in 2017; End of windmill farm 15-year PILOT fee agreement will have big impact

The Fenner Town Board had a lot on its plate during its Sept. 14 regular monthly meeting, but one of the top issues was taxes. The board set a public hearing to override the state tax cap as well as a special board meeting to discuss the tentative town 2017 budget.

While these are typical annual actions of the board, this year they have greater significance since the Fenner Wind Farm ended its 15-year PILOT program this year and went on the town tax rolls. The town’s revenue stream from the windmills will drop from approximately $200,000 to $78,000, said Supervisor Dave Jones.

“We have no idea yet [on the amount of the tax increase],” Jones said. “We’ll have to go through the budget process.”

The Fenner Wind Farm has been under a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement for the past 15 years, during which the owner, Canastota Wind Power LLC, a subsidiary of Enel North America, has been paying fees to the town of Fenner instead of taxes. The expiration of the PILOT agreement means the windmills have gone on the town tax rolls.

While the wind farm will now be subject to regular taxation, and will therefore contribute to both county and school district taxes, the loss of annual revenue to the town means taxes will have to increase next year in order to sustain the town’s current operation levels, Jones said.

The board’s first special meeting to discuss the upcoming year’s budget has been scheduled for 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5. There will also be a board work session after the budget meeting. Both meetings are open to the public.

A tax increase of any value can only be achieved by overriding the state-mandated tax cap, which was, in 2016, limited to 0.12 percent.

Nearly every municipality in the state overrides the tax cap every year as a way to protect itself from the harsh penalties associated with going over the tax cap without legislation authorizing a municipality to do so.

The public hearing for the tax cap override authorization is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, during the board’s regular monthly meeting.