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Masiello, Calabrese will lobby for Ken-Ton, Tonawanda seeking state aid over Huntley closing

Two former politicians will take on the lobbying effort to find state money to help the Town of Tonawanda and Erie County get through the hardship of the closing of the Huntley power plant.

The lobbying firm of Carl J. Calabrese, a former Tonawanda supervisor, and Anthony Masiello, Buffalo’s former mayor, has been hired by the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, Town of Towawanda and Erie County.

“They’re certainly familiar with the county, the town and the school district and they certainly have the relationships established to help advocate for sustainability for our three municipalities,” said Superintendent Dawn F. Mirand.

The School Board on Tuesday night approved a contract with Masiello, Martucci, Calabrese & Associates, which will work on Tonawanda’s behalf to access funds in the state’s Fossil Fuel Plant Closure Fund.

The Huntley Station power plant in the town is scheduled to close March 1, resulting in the loss of about $6 million in tax revenue for the school district, town and county.

“All three municipalities stand to lose a great deal from the closing of Huntley,” Mirand said. “There is $19 million set aside in the governor’s budget but there really are no clear guidelines on how that’s going to be distributed to communities and municipalities impacted by the closing of coal plants.”

The contract with the lobbying firm is effective through June 30 for a fee of $30,000. Erie County will pay 20 percent of the fee, while the school district – the lead agency in the agreement – and town will split the remaining 80 percent, Mirand said. The Kenmore Teachers Association also contributed toward the fee.

The school district stands to lose about $3 million annually as Huntley closes, while the town would lose about $2 million and the county $1 million.

The district anticipates laying off 18 teachers next school year, as part of a consolidation plan approved in 2014 that closes three schools at the end of this school year. But Huntley’s closure could affect that figure, Mirand said.

“As it shapes up and we see the $3 million impact, and what other budgetary constraints we have, we might have to start trimming a little bit more,” Mirand said. “We don’t want to, but everything will be on the table when it comes to trying to decide how to close the budget gap.”

Also Tuesday, the board voted to put a referendum before the public at May’s budget vote that would add a non-voting student member to the board.