HAVERSTRAW, NY- With New York’s crushing property tax burden forcing homeowners out of the state, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Stony Point Town Councilman Tom Basile, candidate for State Senate, today proposed a $200 million per year state fund to help struggling school districts and municipalities across the state that are impacted by power plant closures and tax certiorari judgements.

State energy policies have forced the closure of electrical power generating plants, resulting in the loss of thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions in local tax revenue over the last decade.

This “Real Property Tax Relief Mitigation Fund” would provide $200 million in annual state aid to school districts and towns that have suffered significant financial stress from an electrical power plant closure. The fund, which would be established in state law, would provide budgeting consistency for municipalities and school districts, and tax relief for local property taxpayers.

Among the hardest hit municipalities and school districts in the state is the North Rockland Central School District. Under the new program, endorsed by Senator Flanagan and advanced by Senate Candidate Tom Basile, North Rockland would see its massive debt addressed by state resources, protecting the long-term financial stability of the school district and provide much needed real property tax relief to its residents.

Payments made by the state to municipalities and school districts, who apply for grants under this proposed Real Property Tax Relief Mitigation Fund, would require the school district or municipality awarded such state resources to reduce their tax levy by the corresponding amount. The tax levy is the amount annually paid by residents through their real property taxes to a municipality or school district.

“This is a serious issue on Long Island with the LIPA tax certiorari decision and it is a problem that is impacting more and more areas throughout the state,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “The North Rockland School District taxpayers have borne the brunt of this problem and the state needs to step in and address this issue now to help alleviate this massive burden.”

Majority Leader Flanagan noted that towns and school districts across the state, from Western New York to the North Country, from Long Island to the Hudson Valley, are facing financial stress from the closure of electrical power facilities caused by the change in energy policy advanced by the Governor and State Assembly.

“The Governor and Speaker need to join me at the table during the budget negotiations to finally provide this meaningful real property tax relief. We need to secure the financial future of all the school districts and towns across the state that have been impacted by the energy policy that they have championed,” Senator Flanagan declared.

The North Rockland area was severely impacted by the closure and demolition of the Lovett power plant. A massive federal tax judgement was subsequently awarded against the school district and the towns in 2006 because of a tax certiorari lawsuit brought by the Mirant Corporation. Because of the lawsuit, the school district alone is now required to pay over $12 million a year to satisfy this judgment.

Municipalities have also been equally hard hit from this problem. Towns like Stony Point and Haverstraw have seen a significant decrease in revenue due the Lovett Plant closure and the tax certiorari case. Under the plan proposed by Senate Candidate Tom Basile, the average homeowner in Stony Point and Haverstraw would see significant real property tax relief.

“I applaud the Majority Leader for his commitment and call on the Governor to do the same now,” said Tom Basile, who is running and the Republican, Conservative and Independence Party lines to succeed the area’s long-serving Senator Bill Larkin. Basile briefed elected leaders and other officials from the North Rockland School District, and the respective municipalities of his plan at a meeting this morning in Haverstraw.

“Our residents facing this crisis, need real solutions, to provide meaningful and immediate tax relief,” Basile said. “Today, Senator Flanagan, our Senate Majority Leader, has committed to fight for a real solution, that is critical to achieve the debt and tax relief we need for our area.”

“New York’s failed energy policies have decimated our tax bases in so many areas,” said Basile. “Albany’s tax and regulate agenda has seriously cost Haverstraw and Stony Point residents and has left us with land that generates pennies-on-the-dollar compared to its previous tax levy.”

Councilman Basile further noted that the state needs to step up and help communities like Haverstraw and Stony Point that have been devastated by the closing and demolition of the Lovett power plant.

New York’s annual budget is over $170 billion a year, growing at a rate of seven billion dollars a year. This $200 million annual fund would represent less than three and one-half percent of the annual state budget increase.

“We can afford to do this without raising a dollar in taxes,” said Majority Leader Flanagan. “It is merely a factor of priorities. If we act now, we will ensure more affordable communities, and stronger school districts, across the state,” he concluded.

Bob Driscoll