Lone councilman only one not to see good in GE tax deal
As Rotterdam supervisor, I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight concerning GE’s tax agreement (Feb. 28 Gazette).
First, GE did not receive a little perk from the town, as Councilman Bob Godlewski reportedly said.
This is unfair and untrue.
Second, the article made it seem as if the agreement was solely with the town. It involved GE, the Schalmont School District, the town, the Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency and the Schenectady County Legislature. All four government entities unanimously approved the historic agreement with the lone exception of Mr. Godlewski.
Third, the article focused on the opinion of one Town Board member, who incorrectly stated that the town “rammed home a deal that was extremely favorable to GE.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. For decades, GE and the town fought it out in court over assessments. This legal battle cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees. It also created ill will between the town and GE at a time when companies and communities needed to work together to create new jobs and attract new investment.
As town supervisor, I worked very closely with the Town Board, the Schalmont school superintendent and school board, the county Legislature, the Schonowee Fire Department and Schenectady County’s economic development team — who dedicated themselves to stop the madness, work with GE to end the lawsuits and begin a new mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship. The results have been outstanding.
The previous court action set the value of the GE property in Rotterdam at $129 million. All parties agreed to settle the pending litigation at an increased level of $132 million for the prior period, 2007 to 2011. For 2012, it was agreed that the town assessor [John Macejka Jr.] would use the same $132 million figure for GE property when setting the tax rolls for 2012. This was done only as an interim measure until a new Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement could take effect this year, and was fully disclosed when the GE agreement was announced.
The new PILOT agreement now in effect calls for GE to pay full taxes on the equivalent of $141 million each year for five years, then increasing to $146 million each year for the following five years. All parties have agreed not to challenge the assessed value covered by the new agreements for the full term of the agreement.
Instead of fighting with GE, Rotterdam is now working together with its largest employer and taxpayer. Instead of exorbitant court costs and uncertainly over legal challenges to property values, taxpayers will benefit from a stable tax base, receiving full taxes going forward on $141 million in assessed value, followed by an increase to $146 million annually. This represents a substantial increase from previous assessed values — all without spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for additional legal expenses without any certainly of a successful result.
Instead of acknowledging the fact that years of fighting and legal challenges have been settled with a favorable outcome for town residents, and despite his lone dissenting vote, Godlewski wants to turn back the clock to a prior era of legal fights, tax base uncertainty and lost opportunities.
I thank GE for its commitment to Rotterdam and all of Schenectady County. I also thank the town, county, fire and school district leaders who helped to put this agreement in place.
Harry C. Buffardi
State government must be more transparent
If the governor and legislative leaders think it’s appropriate to do the people’s business by passing legislation at 3 a.m., then why don’t they hold their press conferences [then]? Because they want a full airing of their ideas to the public through the media.
Such is the case with legislative leaders and executives — past and present — and their use of the constitutionally granted “message of necessity” to push through legislation and bypass the three-day “aging” period required so legislators and the public have an opportunity to review bills.
I’ve authored, and several of my colleagues have sponsored, the New York State Government Transparency Act to stop the abuse of messages of necessity.
Regardless of one’s position on the merits of the NY SAFE Act, few would argue the process for passing such sweeping legislation was healthy for our representative democracy. One need only look at the fact that after the legislation passed, many of the firearms being used by our police in the line of duty [became] outlawed.
The New York State Government Transparency Act was authored almost a year before the SAFE Act came up, when six significant policy decisions were made in the dark of night through messages of necessity. But this isn’t about any one bill — it’s about our system of checks and balances.
Famed writer Bob Woodward once said the worst thing we have to fear as Americans is “secret government, because in darkness democracy dies.”
I believe the Founding Fathers had it right when they developed three separate branches of government to be a check on each other. If a deal hatched in darkness is right for New York, it will stand the scrutiny of daylight.
The writer is an assemblyman.
Hard to believe that racism still exists today
Racism in public schools has gotten out of hand. When I walk down the halls of my high school, I often hear racist comments geared toward African-American students. Things like: “Better watch him, he might steal your stuff. He’s black.”
It disgusts me to think that this is the kind of generation our parents raised, one where racist comments and people don’t care that the things they say have an effect on others. I even see the Confederate flag around my town! Did we step back in time or something?
I understand there are still racists out there, but does this really have to be brought into our schools? I can’t see why it can’t be the kind of world where we all get our chance.
[The musical] Hairspray had it right: “Why can’t we all be equal?” This isn’t the 1950s anymore, people. Start acting like it.
The writer is a student at Duanesburg High School.
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