County Approves One-Year PILOT With Constellation

OSWEGO, NY – Two out of three are onboard.

The Oswego County Legislature voted 23-0-2 Thursday night to join the town of Scriba in accepting a one-year PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement with Constellation (owner of the Nine Mile Point Unit I nuclear power plant).

Legislators Mike Kunzwiler and Jim Oldenburg, both Constellation employees, abstained from the vote.

Kevin Caraccioli ... favors agreement
Kevin Caraccioli ... favors agreement
Fran Hoefer ... opposes agreement
Fran Hoefer ... opposes agreement

Of the three entities involved, the town of Scriba voted to accept the deal while the Oswego City District Board of Education voted against it.

An amendment to Thursday’s resolution allowed the county to move forward with the town on the PILOT, without the school district.

Kevin Caraccioli, the town of Scriba’s attorney, addressed the legislature, encouraging them to support the agreement.

“I want to give you the assurance that the town of Scriba will be standing committed to honor the agreement that was struck with Constellation, for Nine Mile Point Unit I,” he told the legislators.

It is important to understand, that under New York State law, the municipality in which the property is located sets the assessment, he pointed out.

“The town of Scriba is host to three nuclear power plants. As such, we are the assessor, we set the assessed value,” he said.

There is strength in numbers, he said explaining Scriba’s desire to partner with the county and school district for “such a significant, and I dare say historic agreement such as a nuclear tax agreement.”

The power plant will be paying approximately 275 percent more in taxes next year, going from $4 million to $11 million, he said.

Caraccioli described the deal as “a temporary one-year bridge, this is not a five-year deal that everybody is locked into. It continues our negotiations in good faith with a company that is well-received in this community and is a part of this community.”

There is a lot of benefit in negotiating with Constellation, he added.

The best thing would be for all three entities to join in a deal with Constellation.

But if that’s not the case, the attorney said Scriba will exercise its authority, as the assessing unit, and enter into an agreement with the county that will fix a payment for the town and the county and establish an assessed value that will realize as close as possible the tax payment that the school district would otherwise receive – $4 million more than their budgeted figure that has already been passed.

Legislator Kunzwiler praised the bipartisan manner in which the county conducted the negotiation process.

Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, standing center, makes a point regarding the tentative agreement prior to the legislature’s vote Thursday night. Looking on, from left in foreground, are legislators Terry Wilbur and Morris Sorbello. In background from left are Jacob Mulcahey and Fred Beardsley.
Legislator Mike Kunzwiler, standing center, makes a point regarding the tentative agreement prior to the legislature’s vote Thursday night. Looking on, from left in foreground, are legislators Terry Wilbur and Morris Sorbello. In background from left are Jacob Mulcahey and Fred Beardsley.

“Any information we needed was given to us in a timely manner. It was a transparent process. I think that it’s wrong for people to use scare tactics and say things are being done behind closed doors,” he said referring to Oswego school board member (and former county legislator) Fran Hoefer’s remarks at the public hearing prior to the legislature meeting.

“I would have agreed with (Hoefer) 10 years ago. But, I can’t agree with him today,” Kunzwiler said. “Negotiations were not done openly with the legislature during the last agreement. This time it was.”

“This whole PILOT thing is a backroom deal cloaked in secrecy,” Hoefer said at the public hearing on the agreement. He was the only speaker

During the meeting, when Legislator Barb Brown sought information about the plant and spent fuel rods, Legislator Doug Malone interrupted.

“Point of order, Mr. Chairman. This ain’t got nothing to do about nothing. Now, step up to the plate and let’s go,” he said.

“A PILOT, to the school district leadership, is a big chunk of free cash,” Hoefer said. “A PILOT means the school district can go on a spending spree and the taxpayers get screwed! A PILOT, to the school district, means $4 million more in the bank, right in the middle of administrators’ salary negotiations!”

“Quite frankly, how the school district handles their portion of the money when they get it is none of our business. Whether they give their superintendent a raise or not is none of our concern,” Legislator Fred Beardsley pointed out.

“If the power plants go on the tax levy, the entire taxable value of this county goes up and everyone’s taxes go down!”

“It is extremely important that the public realize that irregardless of whether this plant goes on the tax rolls or in a PILOT agreement, the dollar value to the county taxpayers will be exactly the same,” Beardsley pointed out. “So, there is no dollar advantage for taking this one way or the other.”

“We need this money for next year’s budget. I know it’s not going to pay down my taxes 12 percent, I understand that,” Malone said. “This is just a stepping stone to get going, it’s been a fair process and I thank everybody for that.”

The county might be able to lower taxes next year, Oswego County Legislature Chairman Barry Leemann said, prompting Malone to respond, “Wanna bet lunch on that?”

“This is a one-year agreement that is setting the stage for the more important agreement which would follow; the agreement regarding Nine Mile II and the FitzPatrick plant,” Legislator Jack Proud said. “It is important that we maintain our trust. Something that’s negotiate din good faith, up front by all the entitles involved with a chance to ask questions, question information and do all those things and then is agreed up in good faith by all the entities is very important.”

If the county is going to be negotiating bigger agreements later, there has to be an element of trust and confidence, Proud said.

For a number of years, there has been conjecture about the possibility of a Nine Mile III.

“I pose the question, would any corporation want to come to Oswego County to build Nine Mile III when they can’t trust the word of the people who negotiate the contract with them?” Proud asked. “I maintain that they probably would look somewhere else. We need to establish the reputation of standing up for what we’ve signed.”