Officials bash LIPA settlement with county over power plants

Officials bash LIPA settlement with county over power plants
State and local officials spoke at the Glenwood Landing School on Monday regarding a tentative settlement between the county and the Long Island Power Authority. (Photo by Brandon Duffy)

Several Long Island officials on Monday night criticized the agreement reached between the Long Island Power Authority and the county to lower the tax bill for a pair of power plants, including Glenwood Landing, at Legislative Night held at the Glenwood Landing School auditorium.

State Sen. Jim Gaughran was joined by Assemblymen Chalres Lavine, Michael Montesano and Ed Ra and County Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton and Joshua Lafazan to answer questions from students and concerned residents regarding the settlement and district. 

The event was held by the North Shore Schools Legislative Action Committee. 

Gaughran, who represents the 5th Senate District, said that the Legislature will evaluate better methods of transparency with the new state budget and make sure to avoid problems like this in the future.

“We’re going through the state Legislature to look over the next year as to how we can go towards a much better system in terms of oversight of our utility,” Gaughran said. “Because right now, they basically sold us out.” 

The settlement, reached last week, will result in the $59 million annual tax bill on the two power plants being reduced to $32 million over the next five years, according to a news release. Authority officials said a tax certiorari trial scheduled for May 31 would have reduced the tax assessments on the two plants by at least 70 percent.

Officials also said the settlement continues guaranteed payments to three school districts, including the North Shore school district, through 2027 and “protects Nassau’s taxpayers from hundreds of millions of dollars of refund liability.” At $711 million per year, taxes are the authority’s second-largest expense, making up roughly 19 percent of customers’ bills, officials said.

On Monday, the Rules and Finance committees voted in a tentative settlement to lower taxes for the two power stations in Glenwood Landing and Island Park. DeRiggi-Whitton, who voted no, said the school district settlement was not part of the vote Monday, although it was on the record. 

DeRiggi-Whitton said “the whole way this was handled was so shady,” saying that LIPA did not disclose terms of the agreement to the school district until Friday afternoon and was negotiating the settlement over the weekend.   

“They were really touch-and-go with it,” the legislator said. 

Lafazan reiterated her sentiments, adding “we need to hold these quasi-public utility companies accountable.” 

The North Shore school district, according to officials, receives 28 percent of its annual tax revenue from LIPA and National Grid. Interim Superintendent Tom Dolan said the district is in continuous communication with the county administration and the settlement “represents an area of great concern to the district and the entire community.”

“Our awareness has resulted in constant contact with our elected officials and reliance upon legal resources who are familiar with this controversy and who have fought it successfully in neighboring districts,” Dolan continued. “To date, those twin efforts have been effective, and we thank those local and state representatives that have protected the district so well.”

In 2019, the county, under former Democratic County Executive Laura Curran,  reached a settlement with the power authority for a 50 percent tax reduction over seven years, but the Republican-controlled Legislature ultimately derailed it.

Robert Pelaez contributed reporting.

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