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LIPA: The Promise

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LIPA: The Promise

Photo Credit: TBR Newsmedia

Photo Credit: TBR Newsmedia

Photo Credit: TBR Newsmedia

Photo Credit: TBR Newsmedia

Sofia Sawchuck, Freelancer

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Earlier this month on Saturday, March 16th, State Senator Jim Gaughran hosted a Town Hall Meeting in Northport High School’s auditorium concerning the Long Island Power Authority, the organization that controls the power or electricity on Long Island, and their current tax opposition against the Northport School District and the Town of Huntington. Citizens gathered at 10:00am from all over Huntington area to see Senator Gaughran answer questions, and respond to suggestions brought up by some concerned residents. These topics regarded the impact this LIPA situation will have on the School District, the schools in the district and the Town taxes, and what can Albany do to help this situation.

I was able to go to and witness the meeting, and observe first hand the discussion of the LIPA tax challenge. The meeting started off with a bang, as the Northport Tigers Marching Band performed the National Anthem, bringing many to their feet. After the band exited, Robert Banzer, the Superintendent of Schools for the Northport School District, gave a presentation to help inform the meeting’s attendees of the current situation between Northport and LIPA, and the possible effects of LIPA winning the lawsuits. According to Banzer, there are multiple lawsuits pending involving LIPA regarding power plants across the Island, including the powerplant in Northport, which hasn’t yielded any definitive answers so far.

Information was released by the District before the meeting, regarding the details of the challenge by LIPA on the District, to help the people interested in the topic or the people planning to go to the meeting better understand what it was going to be about. These details basically said that LIPA is seeking to reduce the assessed value of the power plant located in Northport, which would lead to a major reduction in the property taxes paid by the National Grid and LIPA.

LIPA is currently paying about $84 million in School and Town taxes for the Northport Power Plant, and they are looking to decrease the estimated value of this power plant by 90%. This means that the local taxpayers would have to bare the burden of the significant loss of tax revenue on their shoulders, leaving the future of Northport School District and the future of its community at risk, according to the rest of the information released by the District.

The meeting was a brainstorming of ideas of the residents of the Town of Huntington, Northport and East Northport. There were many ideas brought to light, but there were some important takeaways from the meeting.

One of the major ideas was not necessarily about the LIPA taxes, but was about LIPA’s Northport power plant. The idea of an environmental study being done was raised to investigate the possible effects of the power plant leaking to the irrigation and/or creating air pollution, on creating possible health effects. This could be seen as a way for the Northport community to be on the offense, in the respect If the power plant is damaging the local environment, LIPA (who owns the plant) should be liable for the destruction.

Another major idea mentioned during the meeting was about how legally binding the contract between LIPA and the Northport School District is, what it says, and if LIPA has any merit. According to the most recent court document regarding LIPA against the town, the promise was actually a letter written in 1997 by Richard Kessel, the chairman of LIPA at the time, stating how LIPA will drop all tax cases against school districts on all of its properties (power plants), meaning they will not challenge any of the tax assessments. The “handshake”, or agreement with LIPA and the Schools as well as the Town of Huntington, was only a policy, not a binding legal agreement. This was clarified at the meeting by one of the attorney’s working the case on the side of the District. This is a major factor that LIPA is using against the District and the Town in these tax lawsuits.

To add to the major ideas presented at the meeting, a concerned citizen asked if this LIPA situation was only going to affect Northport, and if it was going to affect anyone in the Town of Huntington. The answer to their inquiry was that the people of the Town of Huntington, not just the people located in Northport, will be affected. This is because the Northport School District gets most of its funding from Huntington, therefore if LIPA were to win the lawsuit, not only will the taxes the people in Northport will have to pay will increase, the taxes of the people located in Huntington will also increase. Senator Gaughran mentioned that there are power plants all over Long Island, and if LIPA can try to decrease the taxes they pay towards Northport’s school budget because of decreasing the value of the Northport’s power plant, they can eventually do this to all the towns with power plants all over the island. This LIPA situation is bigger than just one community. According to Newsday, “LIPA has challenged assessments on four of National Grid’s largest power stations or plant properties, including in Port Jefferson, Glenwood Landing and Island Park. It’s already reached a settlement with Brookhaven and Port Jefferson village over the Port Jefferson plant, leading to a 50 percent reduction in taxes over nine years.”

There were no LIPA representatives or lawyers located at this meeting, meaning there weren’t any statements by the side opposing the Northport School District or Huntington.

Senator Gaughran and Superintendent Banzer stressed the point for the community to become active in fighting LIPA, so if you are interested in helping out, below are some ways you can.

 

On the Northport School District website, at the bottom of the homepage under quick links, there is info on LIPA and LIPA updates, as well as links to templates you can use to write letters to elected officials like Governor Cuomo and Senator Flanagan.

 

You can also go to www.stoplip

anow.com to fill out a form “Tell[ing] the Governor: [to] Stop LIPA’s Outrageous Tax Dodge!” to send to the Governor Cuomo. This is an opportunity to write to governor to stop LIPA from decreasing the value of the Northport Power Plant.

 

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LIPA: The Promise