County Schedules Public Hearing On Nuclear Plants’ Tax Status

OSWEGO, NY – The public will have a chance next week to weigh in on a proposed tax pact between the county and the owner of the Nine Mile Point nuclear plants.

At a special meeting today (Nov. 16), the Oswego County Legislature scheduled a public hearing on a local law that paves the way for a new tax agreement with the Nine Mile Point I and II nuclear power plants.

The public hearing will be at 2 p.m. Nov. 29, in the Legislative Chambers of the County Office Building, 46 E. Bridge St.

The new tentative agreement is for three years instead of 10, which is wise because of the way the economy is going, County Administrator Phil Church said following the meeting.

“If things turn around, we can begin negotiating a better agreement next time,” he added.

Unlike the expiring 10-year tax agreements, it would increase Constellation’s base payments to the county from $7.45 million to $10 million annually, he said, adding that instead of being flat, it escalates the next two years.

The new deal would increase payments to the county in 2013 and 2014 by $186,000 and $190,000, respectively.

“It removes the cost and the risk of a court fight over the assessments on the plants; taxpayers and the plants’ owner wouldn’t have to pay for expensive prolonged tax certioraris (tax challenges on the plants) in court, and the expense of an unpredictable result,” he continued.

The town of Scriba and Oswego City School District will also meet regarding the proposed deal.

“I’m not anticipating any problems (with the town and board),” Church said. “The (tentative) agreement is an improvement over the 10-year agreement.”

If approved, the new deal would be three years in length, ending in fiscal year 2014, the administrator said.

“Unlike the 10-year agreement, this is an escalating agreement. The 10-year actually declined in the first five years and then was flat,” Church noted. “The base payment that they would be paying now is comparable to what the plants would pay if placed on the tax rolls,” he said. “So, the taxpayers aren’t out anything.”

The proposal would also stabilize local tax rates by insulating taxpayers from wide swings in the plants’ assessed values caused by unpredictable energy markets in the current down economy.

The local law would grant an exemption on Nine Mile Point Unit I and Unit II, according to Richard Mitchell, county attorney.

“If and when an exemption is granted, the county legislature can execute an agreement on certain terms. And, that agreement I would expect would include other taxing jurisdictions and the company,” he told Oswego County Today. “Right now, we are still working on the language. We have a general idea of what the terms are. But we’re not going to release anything until next week when we finalize everything. We are very close right now.”