The Uniform Tax Exemption Policy (UTEP) for wind projects currently before the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency for public comment and enactment is critical to what towns in Jefferson County may receive financially from any project. The focus is how much of a reduction from full taxation shall be allowed to the developer and how tax revenues would be allocated between the town, school district and county.
In discussion back and forth, the developer is pushing for a starting reduction of 85 percent to just 15 percent of full taxation that could be imposed by the UTEP law. The current version of the UTEP, however, would allow towns the right to veto this initial 15 percent amount and insist on a higher level of taxation based on what the town believes is appropriate in their community's unique situation. I support this right.
As to the allocation of tax revenues, if percentages customized to the wind project at hand could not be agreed to, then the standard allocation would be imposed by the UTEP. In Cape Vincent this is 3.59 percent to the town, 56.86 percent to the school district and 39.55 percent to the county. I take exception to forcing this minimal allocation on the town.
Overall I strongly support the self-determination of the taxing jurisdictions. The duty of the town to decide what is right for constituents should not be removed by the new law. In Cape Vincent the State Environmental Quality Review process dealt with zoning issues and hardly at all with economic impacts. Moreover, even if economic impacts had been properly assessed in the SEQR, then the town board would separately have the duty to decide what level of taxation would be appropriate given any perceived negative impacts from the wind turbines.
As to allocation, the supervisor of a neighboring town has advised that he would insist on some 40 percent of revenues. I would support his position.
I am currently on the town board. However, in writing to respectfully draw the attention of interested parties to these issues, I am doing so as an individual only.
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