As a property owner in Hopkinton, I have followed the discussion on the wind farm project with a critical eye. As the assessor in one of New York States largest suburban towns, I have years of dealing with PILOT programs, corporate attorneys and developers promises of the community benefits of their “one of a kind-good times for all” developments.
Let’s face the reality of the wind farm project. It is about money and the environment. It is about property leases for supporters, theoretical tax savings for taxpayers, potential environmental impact on a multitude of levels, and especially big earnings for big corporations. Yet what we truly care about at the local level are the proposed savings. Are they real or a fabrication meant to mislead in an effort to gather support for the project?
That being said, let’s do the numbers. (These numbers are averages-but close approximation)
-PILOT payout per numerous media outlets: $750,000
-Percentage breakdown of average tax bill: Mill rate (dollars per thousand) $29.41 (total taxes $2,941 on a $100,000 home); -$14.54 for school tax (49.4% of total) / $14.87 for town/county for (50.6% of total).
So, right from the top, only $379,500 ($50.6% of $750,000) is available to apply to the town and county tax bill. How does the town and county tax bill break down from a percentage standpoint?
The county charges and chargebacks account for 60.59% of the average bill. That means that of the $379,500 available, $229,939 would go to the county, leaving a total of $129,636 available for the town portion of the bill on which the PILOT would apply, which is town cost and highway cost only (not the fire line item) The actual town line item percentage is 10.83% and the highway percentage is 23.33%.
Once again, what this means is that if all the $129,636 was applied to the Hopkinton tax levy of $560,487, and if the town chose not to spend any of this money, apply it all against the levy and not increase the levy the following year, taxpayers would benefit from a 23.13% savings on their town line items only. Not the school tax, not the county tax, not the county chargebacks and not the fire tax. A far cry from the 50% and 40% numbers I have been seeing on the roadside signs.
That is a lot of “ifs,” folks. When you dangle money in front of local elected officials, good things do not always happen (see the fiscal shenanigans in the Town of Canton as the most recent and only one of many statewide examples.)
Don’t’ tap the brakes yet. What does this mean for the owner of the previously mentioned $100,000 home? If your town and county tax on a $100,000 assessment is $1,487, the town and highway percentage of that is going to be 34.16 percent of the two line items of town and highway. (remember town is 10.83% of bill-highway is 23.33%). Your total tax charges for the two lines of town and highway will be $507.96. Your PILOT savings if the above mentioned conditions are met (no increase in spending-all PILOT monies applied against levy) will be 23.13% of $507.96, or a whopping $117.49 on a $100,000 home. There you have it. Be honest…not what you have been told.
No surprise there. Local elected officials and county industrial development agencies are often hoodwinked by big corporations and big promises. It helps that they are usually accompanied by campaign contributions and checks for the political parties in charge.
Let’s face it, taxpayers of Hopkinton…you can roll manure in sugar, but it still isn’t a jelly doughnut. Be smart about this. And if you have elected officials that squirm at the suggestion of transparency in the process, vote them out of office. That…is what makes America great!
Hopkinton property owner
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