LIPA has extended until the end of March its deadline for settling legal cases challenging the tax payments for two Nassau-based power-plant properties, but it’s still unclear whether the Republican-controlled legislature will sign on to the deal.
Meanwhile, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Tuesday stepped up pressure on LIPA to settle two lawsuits brought by impacted school districts in a way similar to one LIPA settled last year in Northport.
"I demand that LIPA settle the lawsuits with the North Shore and Island Park School Districts for amounts comparable to the $14.5 million LIPA gave to the Northport-East Northport School District," she said in a statement to Newsday on Tuesday night. "Our districts can’t be left in a position that jeopardizes their future."
Curran urged the County Legislature to "commit publicly to approving" a proposed settlement her administration reached with LIPA last month "if the lawsuits are settled with the school districts."
But Nassau’s Republican-led legislature appeared to be on a different track. In a letter last month, Legis. Richard Nicolello (R-New Hyde Park), the Nassau Legislature’s presiding officer, and Legis. Denise Ford (R-Long Beach) asked lawmakers including Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport) about the status of Gaughran’s 2019 legislation that outlawed LIPA’s tax challenges and payment of back-tax refunds.
LIPA said in a statement that it was working with Nassau County to finalize the settlement, and extended its deadline to March 31 from the previous Feb. 28. LIPA lawyers have met with "all interested parties including state and local officials and interested members of the public," officials said.
Last year, the lawmakers cited the Gaughran legislation in holding up a vote on the proposed settlement.
Gaughran on Tuesday night said his office "determined that this legislation does not require changes as it is crafted to protect Long Island taxpayers from LIPA’s reckless assault on school districts and local governments."
He said it’s scheduled to be voted on by the full senate on Wednesday
In a statement, LIPA urged the Nassau Legislature to "follow the leadership of the Towns of Huntington and Brookhaven," which have already approved settlements related to the National Grid-owned plants.
LIPA called its proposed settlement "the best option that will continue to lower taxes for the local communities, protect Nassau County residents from over $625 million of potential tax refunds, and begin the transition to a sustainable tax base and clean energy future for all Long Island residents."
Newsday reported in January that LIPA and Nassau were close to reaching an agreement on the decade-old suits involving the E.F. Barrett plant in Island Park and a separate power-station property in Glenwood Landing. LIPA pays $43 million in annual taxes for Barrett, and another $24 million for Glenwood.
Under the proposed terms, taxes would be cut by 47% by 2027, with an option to extend the last-year payment for five years if the plants were still operating. LIPA would forgive hundreds of millions of dollars in back taxes. The original 2019 settlement angered Island Park residents because it included increased tax payments by the seventh year of the deal to upward of $203 per month.
Northport’s school district negotiated a $14.5 million payment over seven years to settle its third-party lawsuit against LIPA. No such settlement has been entered into by the Nassau-based districts.
Hempstead Town Councilman Anthony D’Esposito, in a letter to Curran on Tuesday, demanded that she allow Island Park’s school district, businesses and community members to participate in settlement negotiations with LIPA.
Curran responded in a Jan. 27 letter to D’Esposito, noting Nassau County isn’t a party to the Island Park School District’s suit against LIPA and "cannot represent" the district in its effort to settle that suit. But she said LIPA "understands the importance of resolving the suit" in connection with legislative approval of LIPA’s proposed tax settlement.