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Port Jefferson election focuses on power plant, tax payments

Port Jefferson Village Hall, May 26.

Port Jefferson Village Hall, May 26. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Port Jefferson’s financial future has become a main issue shaping the June 19 election with two incumbents and a political newcomer running for two trustee seats.

Incumbents Bruce D’Abramo and Bruce Miller are vying to retain their two-year seats while Kathianne Snaden is undertaking her first run for elected office. D’Abramo, 70, is running for a fourth term and Miller, 73, is seeking his third.

Snaden, 46, is a homemaker who said she wants to get more residents civically involved.

“I would like to see a better connection between our young families and the village, and for those families to get more involved in the issues our community faces,” Snaden said.

One of the biggest issues for the village and its school district is a property-tax settlement being negotiated with LIPA that would reduce the utility’s payments by 50 percent, in steady increments, over eight years starting in 2019. The plan stems from a tax challenge filed by the Long Island Power Authority over the National Grid-owned Port Jefferson power station nearly a decade ago. LIPA, which buys all the power from the little-used plant, is arguing that the approximately $32.6 million it pays annually in taxes is based on an over-assessment of the plant.

Port Jefferson and Brookhaven Town officials have been working on a settlement with LIPA and have reached an agreement in principle, according to town officials. It’s likely to result in an annual tax payment reduced to $16.3 million by 2026, leading to a scramble by taxing entities to replace the lost revenue.

Offsetting that loss starts with increasing property taxes at new housing developments in the village, D’Abramo said. He cited a 112-unit apartment building on West Broadway and two other developments that are underway. D’Abramo said those developments will provide needed tax dollars, but acknowledged that “it may be tough to do it to the extent of what we were getting from LIPA.”

“I’m not sure if it’s going to be enough, but they [the developments’ tax payments] will be clear steps in the right direction,” he said.

Miller said the ideal LIPA scenario would be to repower the Port Jefferson power planet, effectively retrofitting the space with new or more sustainable energy sources. Doing so could entice LIPA to maintain its presence at the plant and keep some tax dollars flowing into the village, Miller said.

The plant “would be used as a backup to an expanded solar or wind capacity on Long Island,” Miller said, detailing a potentially new Port Jefferson plant.

Snaden echoed D’Abramo’s comments about new developments helping offset loses from LIPA for the village and school district and said she wants to find new ways for village government to talk to school district officials.

“Being in a very small village, we have to be able to work together and we need to be connected,” Snaden said. “And I have a different perspective than the guys who have been sitting there [on the board] for a long time.”

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