After years of legal battles over whether Nassau County over-valued the taxes on two Long Island Power Authority power plants, a settlement between LIPA and the county has been finalized. But it appears to many that the deal is not in the best interest of residents of the North Shore School District.
Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman an-nounced the settlement at his State of the County address on Monday, and said that the North Shore and Island Park school districts had settled on a separate deal with LIPA.
“Through my direct intervention, LIPA has put up offers to the school districts,” Blakeman said, “and I’m happy to report today, LIPA settled with the North Shore Schools.”
Shortly afterward, North Shore Interim Superintendent Thomas Dolan and Board of Education President Dave Ludmar announced the separate agreement with LIPA, although nothing will be signed until the main settlement makes its way through the County Legislature. The Legislature’s Rules Committee also took a vote on the settlement on Monday. It was ap-proved, and will move on to a final vote in the Legislature on April 25.
At the April 7 Board of Education meeting, Dolan explained what the community could expect from the LIPA settlement with the county. There were no considerations for the district, he said. Over the next five years, the taxes on LIPA’s Glenwood Landing plant, which help fund the district’s budget, will be reduced by roughly $29 million.
The burden for that lost revenue, Dolan said, would fall on residents, leading to estimated tax increases of between $900 and $2,400, depending on the value of their property.
He assured residents then that the district was doing everything possible to reduce the financial fallout, pursuing several options, including seeking aid from the governor’s office, making cautious use of district’s reserves, and reducing in staff and programming. He added that North Shore would also try to obtain additional money from LIPA, which, in response to a previous request for aid from the district, offered only a one-time payment of $1 million.
“LIPA is saving an incredible amount of money from this settlement — hundreds of millions of dollars,” Dolan said at the time. “They are going to benefit from this deal, and we expect them to do better than $1 million.”
County Legislator Delia DeRiggi-Whitton spoke on Monday at a Meet the Legislators event in Glenwood Landing, hosted by the North Shore Legislative Action Committee. The North Shore district, she said, will now receive a larger lump-sum payment — three times more, implying that LIPA will pay the district roughly $3 million — as part of the settlement. DeRiggi-Whitton still voted against the deal, she said, because she didn’t believe it was in the best interest of residents of the affected communities.
“The whole way this was handled was so shady,” DeRiggi-Whitton said. “LIPA really has been very difficult to deal with, especially for the school districts.”
In addition to the increased taxes residents now face, DeRiggi-Whitton explained that according to the terms of a “hold harmless” letter that LIPA has, the power authority cannot be held liable for any environmental damage it may have caused in the area of the Glenwood Plant over the past 50 years — this despite the evidence of such damage, according to DeRiggi-Whitton.
Legislator Josh Lafazan also spoke at Monday’s Meet the Legislators event, and said that he, too, had voted against the settlement earlier that day, finding particular fault with the hold-harmless letter. “We have to hold these quasi-public utilities companies accountable,” Lafazan said. “How they can have a hold-harmless letter is simply outrageous.”
Despite their opposition to the settlement, DeRiggi Whitton indicated that the Legislature would likely approve it when it votes on April 25.
Speaking on Tuesday, the day after the separate settlement between LIPA and the district was announced, Dolan said that although he was continuing to work with LIPA, and the increased lump sum would help, the district would likely have a long road ahead in its negotiations with the authority.
“While it is better, it still does not make us whole,” Dolan said, “and there’s still a lot of work we will have to do as a district.”