OSWEGO, NY â€“ Following an executive session Monday night, the Oswego City School District board of education voted 6-1 to sue over the tax agreement for Nine Mile Point Unit I.
They hired Binghamton real estate and assessment attorney Paul Sheppard.
According to the resolution, he will be paid an hourly rate. The rate hasnâ€™t been established yet.
The resolution reads: “…the Oswego City School District Board of Education approve the appointment of Paul Sheppard to move forward with legal responsibilities relating to litigation in relation to the Tax Assessment Agreement for Nine Mile Point Nuclear Power Station Number One. Sheppard will be reimbursed on an agreed hourly rate.”
The motion was made by Fran Hoefer and seconded by Sam Tripp.
Earlier this spring, the district, town of Scriba and Oswego County negotiated a tentative one-year tax deal with Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, owners of Nine Mile Point Unit I.
The agreement had to be approved by all three taxing entities; the school district, however, was the only one to not approve the pact.
Under the proposed deal, the district would have received $6,358,000 from Nine Mile Point I for the 2010-2011 school year; $4 million more than it received this past school year under the PILOT.
Based on the one-year assessment for the plant of $280 million set by the Scriba board of assessment review, the district will receive about $6,031,200.
The board voted against the proposed agreement because, as board vice president John Dunsmoor put it, â€œThere is too much money left on the table.
The majority of the board believes they are entitled to more money and by making the plant â€œpay its fair share,â€ they will receive more.
Board president Dave White referred all questions to the superintendent.
â€œAt this time, we are investigating the proper vehicle for challenging the tax assessment agreement regarding the Nine Mile Point No. 1 facility,â€ explained Bill Crist, superintendent.
At the board’s meeting, it voted to retain counsel on an hourly fee basis in accordance with (Mr. Sheppardâ€™s) firm’s standard retainer agreement, Crist said. Obviously, the fee is dependent on the hours ultimately expended in connection with the matter, he added.
â€œThe goal, in any tax assessment proceeding, is to arrive at an accurate value for the property at issue, such that the property owner pays its fair share of property taxes to all taxing jurisdictions,â€ Crist said. â€œFictional values designed to reach a particular end are unfair to other taxpayers, and side agreements which divert funds from one taxing jurisdiction to another are likewise inappropriate.â€
â€œObviously multiple interests and issues converge here and I don’t minimize their complexity.Â There is a shared history of past agreements and disagreements in the quest for equity on the part of all concerned,â€ according toÂ Jim Tschudy, the only board member to vote against hiring the lawyer. â€œI believe the more promising way of proceeding toward ultimate objectives turns on productive discussion and resolution as opposed to the adversarial route the Board majority has chosen.â€
Solutions driven by adversarial initiatives often yield or perpetuate legacies of recrimination and antagonism, he added.
â€œAgreement inevitably involves compromise, requires patience and persistence as well discerning where the path to mutually equitable benefit leads,â€ Tschudy noted. â€œGood people have often disagreed over which route best served their interests.â€
He referred specific questions to the superintendent of schools.
Negotiations will soon get under way for a new deal with NiMi I and II.
The PILOT agreement for Unit I expires at the end of this year; Unit IIâ€™s expires in December 2011.