Share this article

print logo


Two state legislators are lobbying for special state aid to the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District to offset an agreement that slashes the Huntley Station's tax bill.

Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, and Sen. Mary Lou Rath, R-Williamsville, said that a recent State Supreme Court ruling throwing out the state's school-aid formula could hinder efforts to win extra money for Ken-Ton schools.

But they also said the state should recognize the sacrifice of tax dollars that local officials have made to ensure Huntley continues to produce power.

"Everybody agreed to bite the bullet, for the good of the state and the good of generating capacity," Schimminger said. "Hopefully, the state will pay some respect to that."

Schimminger and Rath spoke during a meeting Friday with Tonawanda officials to discuss the town's 2001 priorities.

The state's decision to deregulate its energy market has harmed the Town of Tonawanda, they said. Niagara Mohawk, restructured to focus on energy transmission, sold the Huntley Station -- the largest taxpayer in Erie County -- to NRG Energy, which immediately sought a tax break, Schimminger said.

Officials last year approved a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement that will reduce Huntley's tax bill over the next five years to $11 million, from $14.8 million.

The Ken-Ton district, which receives 60 percent of Huntley taxes, will see its share fall to $7 million, from $9.5 million.

The tax agreement, painful to the Town of Tonawanda, benefits the state as a whole, the legislators said.

Rath said Oswego, north of Syracuse, received special state aid last year to offset losses from a tax agreement on that city's steam station, also recently purchased by NRG. The steam station once paid three-fourths of all city taxes when it was owned by Niagara Mohawk.

A PILOT agreement for the Oswego Steam Station reduces its city tax bill -- not including school district and county taxes -- from $13 million to $940,000 in 2003, records show.

When the PILOT agreement took the steam station off the tax rolls, county and school taxes for city residents doubled the following year. Oswego received $550,000 in extra aid in the 2000 state budget.

Rath and Schimminger have not established how much extra aid they are seeking.

"We'll certainly be asking to bridge the gap between actual revenue and what might have been," Schimminger said after the meeting.

"I'm not encouraged by the prospects of a full financial aid package . . . based on what you've just told me," Tonawanda Supervisor Ronald H. Moline said.

Schimminger compared the situation to that experienced by Lackawanna taxpayers when Bethlehem Steel Corp. closed more than 20 years ago.

"The folks from Lackawanna traveled to the state and county with tin cups," he said. "It took a lot of effort to get the problem addressed."

There are no comments - be the first to comment