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Huntington says it has made counteroffers in LIPA tax case

A Huntington town attorney said at least three

A Huntington town attorney said at least three separate counteroffers have been made to settle a decadelong tax challenge with LIPA over its Northport power station, seen above on  Aug. 26, 2015. Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Huntington Town has made at least three separate counteroffers to LIPA’s proposed settlement of its decadelong tax challenge with the municipality, but the utility won’t budge, a town attorney said.

Nicholas Ciappetta, Huntington town attorney, said the counteroffers the town has made with LIPA to settle the case would have saved the utility at least $130 million over a 12- to 15-year period, and perhaps as much as $200 million. The utility has rejected the offers, but not counteroffered, he said.

“The Town of Huntington has made counteroffers that would save LIPA substantial amounts of money,” he said. “Really, we’re making counteroffers to our counteroffers.”

A LIPA spokesman declined to comment.

LIPA has been vocal in recent months in pushing for a settlement that would lower the utility’s tax payments for the Northport power station by 50 percent over nine years, including 2018, cutting the payment to around $42 million by 2027. It recently launched a website, www.taxfairnessforlongisland.com, asserting its position on the Northport plant’s lower taxes.

Separately, the superintendent for the Island Park School District, in a recent newsletter to residents, indicated a settlement of its tax case with LIPA was “near.”

“We also anticipate a settlement with LIPA in the near future, which has been another factor that led us to proceed with sensitivity regarding tax increases,” Superintendent Rosemarie T. Bovino wrote in the recent newsletter.

In a message Friday, she explained: "We are trying to advocate for the best settlement possible and we’re going to continue to do that. It could be that a decision is rendered in the case sooner rather than later."

A spokeswoman for Nassau County, which would negotiate any Island Park settlement with LIPA, responded, "We're in meetings. Discussions are continuing." She wouldn't characterize the nature of those discussions, and a LIPA spokesman declined to comment.

LIPA has already settled with the Town of Brookhaven over taxes for the Port Jefferson plant. Any better offer that LIPA agrees to with another municipality would be applied to Brookhaven.

In the Huntington case, Ciappetta declined to specify what the town’s offers consisted of, but acknowledged that it has pushed for a longer ramp-down of the taxes than LIPA is willing to agree to, up to 15 years.

"The more years the better for the school district to be able to adjust,” Ciappetta said. “The shorter it is, the harder for the school district to pay for the bigger percentage loss.”

Paul Darrigo, a Northport resident and leader of the activist group Concerned Taxpayers Against LIPA, has challenged LIPA’s claim that residents would pay an average of only $13 more a month under the settlement LIPA is seeking.

He estimates the cost to residents to be $25.70  a month, a figure that compounds for each of the eight to nine years of the settlement. Either way, the group charges, the settlement will “devastate” the Northport-East Northport School District and force some residents to move out.

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