Cayuga Power Plant

Bill could stem loss of tax revenue from Cayuga Power Plant

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton announced Tuesday that she has introduced legislation that would help the Lansing School District, the Town of Lansing, and Tompkins County weather the loss of tax revenue from the Cayuga Power Plant and possibly other facilities across the state experiencing diminished electrical production.  New York State Senator Pam Helming introduced a similar bill in the Senate.  The bill would make State Urban Development Corporation transition funding available to communities suffering tax revenue loss from power plants within their districts that experience a 20% or more reduction in their taxable value and at least 15% of their electricity production.  Current law only extends the aid to communities with plants that have entirely closed.

"I'm pleased to introduce this legislation, which would make an important change in the rules governing how aid is distributed to municipalities and school districts that face a loss of revenue from a struggling power plant, such as the Cayuga Power Plant in Lansing," said Lifton. "The loss of revenue from a marginally-operating plant can have a devastating impact on school district and town budgets and can put important programs and essential services on the chopping block. If enacted, this amendment would ensure that local municipalities and school districts in those scenarios are eligible for state aid that will help them weather the gap."

State transition funding is currently available to assist communities that are facing a significant reduction in property taxes or PILOT payments due to the shuttering of electricity-generating power plants. The Lansing plant lost $100 million of value from 2009 to 2016, and will loose an additional $40 million by 2019 according to the latest negotiated PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of taxes) agreement between the County and Cayuga Operating Company. But while it still operates at all transition funding is not available, and property taxpayers are shouldered with the burden of making that tax revenue up.  With this year's $25 million reduction in the plant's taxable value, Lansing taxpayers may see a significant impact later this summer when the school tax bills are mailed.

In response to that threat, Tompkins County Legislator Martha Robertson (Dryden) arranged a conference call between Helming (Lifton was unable to participate in the call, but was kept in the loop by Robertson), Tompkins County, and Town of Lansing legislators and school district officials. Helming staffers suggested the only way Lansing could benefit from transition funds without the plant entirely ceasing operations would be if there was a change to the law offering such funds to communities. Robertson asked County Administrator Joe Mareane and Assessor Jay Franklin to suggest wording for an amended law.

The current wording reads, "Documentation of a Cessation must be supported by written confirmation from DPS. DPS will issue such confirmation provided that: (I) the Facility has submitted to the NYISO and/or DPS a notice of the Facility's Intent to stop generating electricity at the Facility or to voluntarily remove the Facility from service (subject to any return-to-service provisions of any tariff and that the Facility Is also ineligible to participate In markets administered by the NYISO); and (ii) the NYISO confirms to DPS that the Facility is no longer producing electricity or participating in markets administered by the NYISO."

Mareane's and Franklin's suggested wording appends a short phrase to the end of the law: "; or (II) that the Facility demonstrates that its actual electricity production in the prior year was less than 15% of its total generating capacity." On May 18th Robertson forwarded the recommendation to Helming's Chief of Staff Will Backes, while also maintaining contact with Lifton's office.  Lifton's bill would make Lansing eligible for transition funding even while the lant remains open on the grounds that there is a significant loss of taxable value.

Meanwhile the Tompkins County Legislature voted 12 - 1 on a resolution introduced by Robertson to support Lifton's and Helming's legislation.  Voting no was Dooley Kiefer (Villages of Lansing and Cayuga Heights).  Robertson was thanked by several Legislators for her initiative.

Lansing property owners may be eligible for some relief if the bill passes in the State Assembly, a similar bill introduced by Helming passes in the Senate, and Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the change into law befre the end of the currect legislative session in Albany.  Robertson says Lifton's office is working with Helming staffers on the next steps.