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Ken-Ton, Dunkirk to receive millions in state aid to offset power plant closures

The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District will receive $2.2 million from a state program set up to help communities hurt financially by the closure of an electric generating plant, officials announced Thursday.

The district will receive $2,230,930 of $3 million in revenue lost when NRG's Huntley Station plant on River Road closed March 1, Empire State Development said in a news release.

District officials were pleased with the announcement, which was anticipated. John Brucato, assistant superintendent for finance, said he expects the district's administrators and Board of Education to identify priorities for using the funds.

"As we move forward, we'll look to pass those savings along to the taxpayers and look at restoring programming that has been lost in the past due to budget cuts," Brucato said. "It really is a fantastic opportunity for the district."

Empire State Development also announced awards of $2.7 million for the Dunkirk City School District, $1.8 million for the City of Dunkirk and $1 million for Chautauqua County after the coal-fired power plant there was mothballed.

The awards are subject to approval by the Empire State Development Board of Directors and proof of the tax loss.

Related: Settlement reached on new assessment on Huntley Station

“These communities were facing very difficult financial decisions as they examined how to absorb the loss of revenue from the closure of the Huntley and Dunkirk power plants,” Empire State Development President Howard Zemsky said in a statement. “That’s why the state established the Electric Generation Facility Cessation Mitigation Fund – which is now supporting communities with funding to help reduce tax burdens in order to lessen the effect on local property taxes, small business and those on fixed incomes.”

The state fund is seen as a stopgap solution to help Ken-Ton and others transition away from dependence on revenue from some of their largest single taxpayers. A new community initiative in the Town of Tonawanda called Tonawanda Tomorrow launched last week to generate ideas for economic development and luring new high-paying jobs to the town.

Communities are eligible for up to 80 percent of lost tax revenue in the first year of the program, a number that declines over five years of eligibility to wean communities off the funding.

"Being fiscally responsible, we won't be budgeting that number -- that anticipated revenue -- every year," Brucato said. "But we'll operate with the optimistic assumption that we'll be granted those monies to come in future years."

The $30 million state fund is awarded on a first come, first serve basis and Ken-Ton sought to be "first in line," said Brucato.

"We were kind of in a holding pattern, not knowing whether this money was going to be available," he said. "Now that we know, we can start planning and moving forward," he said.



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