Saratoga County supervisors on Tuesday gave the final required county approval to settle a long running dispute over financing of the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District.
The county board unanimously approved the deal, under which the county gets a $3.7 million credit for back taxes owed to it by the state-managed flood control district.
The settlement — already approved by legislators in Albany, Rensselaer, Warren and Washington counties — is expected to go before the HRBRRD board March 12 in Utica. If HRBRRD approves it, a final sign-off will then be needed from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
The pending deal would give the district a substantial revenue source for the first time since 2008, when a federal court ruled it couldn’t charge downstream hydroelectric facilities. After it lost that revenue, HRBRRD fell behind in property tax payments owed to towns, counties and school districts around Great Sacandaga Lake, which is split between Fulton and Saratoga counties.
Once the settlement is final, Fulton County will receive $1.7 million from HRBRRD for unpaid back taxes, as required under a separate court order.
“For those of us who live around Great Sacandaga Lake and down river, this has been a trying time,” said Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond. “I think this has been settled as well as it could be.”
HRBRRD started billing the five downstream counties, as the primary beneficiaries of its flood control measures, in 2010, after the federal court decision. The five counties fought the bills — which total about $4.5 million annually — with a lawsuit, but they lost.
The settlement should end the potential for more litigation, said Saratoga County Attorney Stephen Dorsey. It sets the county assessments through 2018, and caps increases after that at 2 percent.
“It is good news, and good news in terms of the taxing entities,” said Michael Clark, HRBRRD’s executive director. “It takes the uncertainty out of it.”
Under the settlement, HRBRRD will receive $3.5 million to settle the last three years of unpaid assessments. Albany County will pay $1.2 million; Rensselaer County, $634,000; Warren County, $284,000; and Washington County, $161,000.
Saratoga, however, is getting a credit for $1.2 million a year, because the district owes the county for unpaid taxes. The credit should run through 2015, Dorsey said.
Going forward, the district will bill the counties $2,994,100 per year through 2018, and not increase the assessment more than 2 percent per year after that. The breakdown until 2018 will be: Albany and Saratoga, $1.03 million each; Rensselaer, $542,000; Warren, $243,000; and Washington, $138,000.
Under the last court ruling, the state is to pay a 22 percent share of the district’s costs, but the state isn’t a party to the counties’ legal settlement.
Also Tuesday, the supervisors, meeting in Ballston Spa, passed a resolution calling for the state Legislature to repeal the NY SAFE Act gun control measures, after hearing nearly an hour of public comment from the law’s opponents.
“This law goes far beyond what is necessary to have gun control in this state,” said Supervisor John E. Lawler, R-Waterford.
County leaders will be meeting with local state legislators Thursday in Albany to make their point.