Updated: Local officials and residents rallied Monday to demand that Gov. Cuomo step up to stop LIPA’s demand for a massive tax break on the Northport power plant.
Members of the Northport school board and the school superintendent Robert Banzer, Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci, Town Councilmen Edmund Smyth, Mark Cuthbertson, Joan Cergol and Gene Cook, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy and scores of residents holding signs gathered in drenching rains pressed their point that LIPA would devastate their community if it prevailed in its tax challenge.
The press conference was held on the Cow Harbor soccer fields, with the Northport power plants, mostly obscured by rain, in the background.
Speakers noted that LIPA is a state agency and that the governor should attempt to rein in the authority.
LIPA’s demands “Is a threat to our way of life,” Lupinacci said. He said the Town of Huntington had accepted a deal with LIPA years ago to host the plant, accepting air pollution, in return for reduced taxes. Noting that LIPA and town agreed to mediation last year, Lupinacci said the authority had yet to make any counter offers. The supervisor ran through a list of ways the town and its representatives in the State Legislature had attempted to stop LIPA from pursuing the case.
LIPA is seeking a massive cut in its property taxes, insisting that the Town of Huntington has overassessed the plant for years, saying that plant is worth about $198 million, while the town assesses it at $ 3.4 billion.
LIPA first filed the challenged to Huntington’s assessment nine years ago, and it has previously settled with Brookhaven in a similar, though smaller, case. The case will return to court at the end of July.
“The numbers we are talking about today are astronomical and based on our current fiscal situation, I’m not even sure we would have the ability to go into the market to raise the funds necessary to cover this potential burden,” Kennedy said. “So I’m here today to call on LIPA to come to the table, work with our local elected officials to come to a reasonable agreement that will be fair and equitable to all. We simply can’t afford anything less.”
Smyth said that the Northport power plant is a 610-foot-tall warning sign to all local municipalities that state authorities cannot be trusted to negotiate in good faith.
The Northport-East Northport school district would take a serious financial hit should LIPA win its case but residents throughout the town would end up paying if LIPA were to also be granted retroactive reimbursement.