Johnny Williams exposes the complete utter disregard Governor Cuomo has for Upstate New York, as he deprives its communities of everything they have.
Natural gas is better than renewables at delivering more than just affordable energy and, as usual, it’s upstate New York that suffers because of the fiscally irresponsible, burdensome goals and initiatives for “clean energy” set aside by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The latest case of this involves the Spencer-Van Etten School District in Tioga County.
Last week, the district’s board of education voted to approve a proposed budget for its 2019-2020 school year that calls for a hike in the local taxes by 1.79 percent, pending local voter approval.
Under normal circumstances, this isn’t really that significant. New York School districts have to raise taxes typically every year due to increasing costs (most of those costs are a combination of contractual pay raises and state-induced expenses.)
In the multiple upstate New York school districts I’ve covered over the past few years, there’s only been one instance that I can recall where a district did not raise taxes. In that case, the state’s rule of a property tax cap did not let the district raise taxes at all, and it resulted in the closing of an elementary school building.
For those unfamiliar with New York’s tax cap policy, it essentially says that local entities – municipalities and school districts, for example – cannot raise local taxes by more than 2 percent. Because we all know it’s the fault of the locals for the out-of-control spending in New York State.
Just to be clear, I don’t have a problem with the idea of tax caps. I think we would all love this idea. But for Gov. Andrew Cuomo of all people to enact this law on local school districts, municipalities and counties while expecting them to pay for an ungodly amount of unfunded state mandates is laughably hypocritical at best and a sad, crippling double standard at worst.
Anyway, the reason the tax cap is significant in this case is because that aforementioned 2 percent cap is not a hard figure. There are a number of factors that go into the calculation of how much school districts can raise taxes, such as how much money the district receives from payments-in-lieu-of-taxes and how much debt that district “retires,” or pays off.
For the sake of completeness, the latter example is the reason the school district I mentioned above needed to close an entire building. Basically, the district paid off a bunch of debt, and the state came back and told them that they actually had to reduce taxes by 5 percent – in the same year that its employees’ health insurance benefits went up by a collective $1 million. But the state didn’t care about that cost, all it saw was that the district paid off debt so hey, they must be doing pretty well financially right?
In the end, the district could not get a budget proposal to pass with voters, so it was forced to enter into a dreaded contingency budget which, while it neither raised nor reduced taxes, forced the district to close one of its elementary school buildings to make up for other increased costs.
While I digress from the whole point of this post, I just wanted to provide an example of how this cap, while well-intended, shows just how disconnected Albany is from the rest of upstate New York.
And now, this disconnect at the state and local level is showcasing itself with the disconnect that Albany has with economically feasible energy for a bit of a double whammy.
Back to Spencer-Van Etten, where taxes are set to go up by 1.79 percent. Originally, due to the factors I mentioned before, this school district’s tax cap was set at 1.08 percent. So why did this district’s tax cap go up?
Because a solar farm complex across the street from the high school is not paying its PILOT payment this year.
According to the district’s business executive, “The reason behind that missed PILOT payment is because the developers of the solar farm failed to meet an agreed-upon substantial completion deadline set by the Tioga County Industrial Development Agency.”
So, essentially, the solar farm developers, Solar Farms NY, was not able to construct its solar farm in time, causing it to miss a payment due to the district and leaving local taxpayers to pick up their tab to the tune of nearly $45,000.
But, it gets even better. The district will be receiving one other PILOT payment this year in the amount of over $146,000.
Where is that PILOT payment coming from? None other than the Millennium Pipeline.
Congratulations, Governor Cuomo; for absolutely nothing.
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