Glenwood power plant closure could increase taxes

From left: North Shore Trustee George Pombar, Assistant

From left: North Shore Trustee George Pombar, Assistant Superintendent for Business for North Shore Schools Olivia Buatsi, North Shore Trustee Anna Sharkey, North Shore Trustee Amy Beyer, Superintendent of North Shore Schools Ed Melnick, North Shore Trustee Toni Labbate, North Shore School District President Carolyn Mazzu Genovesi, and Legislative Action Committee members Jennifer Mone, Michael Nightingale, Tim Madden, Tom Murphy, and Lawrence Ruisi, stand outside of LIPA's Glenwood Power Plant. The plant provides $14 million to the North Shore School District annually, however with the shuttering of the plant, the burden will be shifted to homeowners. (July 03, 2012) (Credit: Newsday/Danielle Finkelstein)

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The shuttering of a North Shore power plant that LIPA has decried as old and inefficient will mean the shift of millions of dollars in taxes from the utility to residents, said local and state officials who have fought for months to soften the blow.

"We're just asking for something reasonable: a glide path instead of a cliff," Carolyn Mazzu Genovesi, school board president for the North Shore School District, said late last month.

The district receives $14 million annually in tax payments from the Long Island Power Authority for the Glenwood Power Station in Glenwood Landing, she said.

The plant officially ceased operations June 30, LIPA officials said. Decommissioning, demolition and remediation is expected to take about five more years, said officials for National Grid, which owns the site.

LIPA is expected to pay taxes on the plant through March, officials said. National Grid's taxes owed will decrease as its property values decline with each phase, officials said.

Genovesi said replacing the $14 million will burden area homeowners whose school tax bills will spike.

Legislative efforts to spare residents from immediately feeling the hit fizzled when state lawmakers adjourned June 21 without taking action.

Two bills sponsored by State Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) -- one to spread utility tax payments over 10 years and another creating a hardship fund to reducethe financial impact over four years -- didn't make it beyond committee reviews.

A bill by upstate State Sen. George Maziarz (R-Newfane) to sell old state-owned gas and coal plants and use the funds to make plants such as Glenwood environmentally efficient so they can stay open and on tax rolls, passed the Senate but wasn't introduced in the Assembly.

"It's very good news for us that these pieces of legislation got this far, but we're also disappointed," Genovesi said.

LIPA spokesman Mark Gross said in a statement that LIPA began talking about ending plant operations "several years ago, with the expectation that local governments and the school district would have ample time to plan for any reduction in property tax payments."

LIPA and National Grid officials said they will make tax payments on remaining assets at the site long after March.

Genovesi said that the district could not legally set aside funds for proposed closings.

She said residents would see a hike of $2,000 to $12,000 annually in their tax bills as a result of the closing. "This is the kind of thing that changes communities entirely . . . changes the demographic immediately," she said.

A committee of local officials and residents this year led to a letter-writing campaign that has generated about 2,000 pleas to state lawmakers about the tax shift. Municipal leaders, such as Old Brookville Mayor Bernard Ryba and Sea Cliff Trustee Tom Murphy, also wrote and urged others to write letters.

It's possible the bills will be revisited in a special legislative session likely to be held in the fall.

Marcellino's chief of staff Kirk Ives said that relief for property owners is "still a priority."

"We don't believe this is going away," Genovesi agreed. "It really is the state's role to have reasonable tax policies and not shock a community with something like this."

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