Otsego reps oppose proposals in state budget

Mar. 1—Members of the Otsego County Board of Representatives voted unanimously to oppose three propositions in the proposed 2024 state budget during a Wednesday, March 1, meeting.

Three members of the public, Richfield Town Supervisor Dan Sullivan, Nathan Seamon and Keith Schue discussed the state's proposal to change Real Property Tax Law 575-b, part N.

The proposed changes would take away a town's right to assess solar and wind projects at full value, Sullivan said.

That, in turn, would decrease the amount of taxes paid to towns, school districts and counties from those projects, Seamon said.

The new proposal is on top of the state's passage of laws that already took away a town's home rule authority when it comes to building huge solar and wind projects, Seamon said. A large solar farm has been proposed in the town of Columbia, where Seamon lives, in Herkimer County, across the border from the town of Richfield.

"If the project is permitted and approved by the state, it would eliminate prime farmland, woodlots, degrade the ecosystem, harm the environment, cause safety concerns, and turn Columbia into a solar panel wasteland," he said. "The project developer, EDF Renewables, is a foreign-owned company and currently has 3,600 acres within the town of Columbia under 40-year leases." He said that equals 15% of the land within the town.

Schue, an electrical engineer and climate advocate, said the state is relying too heavily on solar and wind power generating plants when nuclear and hydropower are more effective at generating electricity and already power the Upstate region.

Prior to entering into a closed-door session to discuss personnel issues with emergency services, Representative Keith McCarty, R-Richfield and Springfield, asked if County Attorney Denise Hollis could come up with a resolution opposing the proposed change in the budget.

Hollis worked on the resolution for about an hour, but said she wanted more time to research the issue when the representatives reconvened.

Representatives unanimously approved directing Board Chair David Bliss, R-Cherry Valley, Roseboom and Middlefield, to write a letter in opposition to the change and send it to the governor, state legislators on the various committees that oversee the laws and local state legislators before April 1.

Representatives also unanimously passed a resolution opposing Hochul's plan to not share federal Medicaid funding with counties. During the overview of committee meetings, Adrienne Martini, D-Oneonta city Wards Three and Four, said Department of Social Services Director Eve Bouboulis reported to the Human Services committee the county would lose $1.3 million if the current budget is passed.

Another part of the state's proposed budget would make municipalities give excess money to a prior owner of real property sold by the municipality after taking title pursuant to Article 11 of the Real Property Tax Law. The board unanimously approved a resolution in opposition to that change. According to the resolution, "Section 1 of the New York Constitution restricts a county from giving any money to or in aid of any individual, or private corporation or association or private undertaking."

The resolution also said the proposed change would be unfair to lien holders, it is unclear if counties could take out the costs for litigation, the number of unpaid parcels would increase because property owners would know they didn't have to pay lien holders, there is no provision in the proposed law for deceased property owners and it's unfair to taxpayers who pay their taxes on time.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.