Monday’s announcement of an agreement to close the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County left local elected officials in a tailspin about tax revenues. They worry there is no way to fill what the Westchester County executive calls a gaping hole.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Entergy officials Monday separately announced their agreement, of which Riverkeeper is a part, to close Indian Point by 2021. Caught off guard, local elected officials fumed about not being part of the discussion. Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who ran against Cuomo in 2014, lays out what the county relies upon annually from Indian Point parent company Entergy.
“For Westchester, we get about $4.5 million from Entergy. That’s 1 percent of our tax levy,” Astorino says. “The county also stands to lose about three-quarters of a million dollars on a tax that goes to nuclear power plants. That pays for five of our employees as part of the Department of Emergency Services.”
The Village of Buchanan, where Indian Point is located, stands to lose 46 percent of its revenue. There are some 75,000 taxpayers in Buchanan, Peekskill and the Town of Cortlandt combined. Democratic Cortlandt Supervisor Linda Puglisi says Entergy contributes two percent to her town’s budget.
“I’m calling upon the governor today, because he’s the only one that can call it, to establish immediately a Blue Ribbon Commission, which is a term that allows the stakeholders involved to sit down at a table, plan out, negotiate properly for the closure of the major taxpaying company in our midst,” Puglisi says.
Puglisi says she previously posed the idea.
“I wrote a letter to the governor in the year 2011, I have a copy with me, asking for him to establish a Blue Ribbon Commission so that we could plan appropriately, prudently for when and if the nuclear plants were to shut down,” Puglisi says.
Republican Frank Catalina is mayor of Peekskill.
“Hundreds of families in Peekskill will be affected as well as hundreds of small businesses,” Catalina says. “And as Linda Puglisi called upon the governor to form a Blue Ribbon Commission, that’s exactly what his father did when GM was proposed to be closed in Tarrytown.”
“Three people in a room basically — the governor, the head of a power company and Riverkeeper — got to cut a good deal for themselves leaving the taxpayers and the ratepayers to hold the bag,” Astorino says. “And so the joke is on us because rates will certainly go up and taxes will certainly go up to have to pay for this.”
Rich Azzopardi is spokesman for Cuomo.
“Several times in recent years power plants were abruptly shut down in New York and this administration, for the first time in state history, established emergency funds to assist schools and local governments with these sudden revenue losses,” says Azzopardi. “In this case, the state and the community have several years to plan and mitigate potential tax shortfalls.”
Entergy's previously agreed upon payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to local government entities and school districts will continue through 2021, before gradually being stepped down at a negotiated level following shutdown. Entergy Wholesale Commodities President Bill Mohl encourages communities to turn to a $15 million fund to support environmental restoration and community benefit projects that is part of the agreement.
“So one of the things we strongly encourage the communities to do is to make sure they understand that they apply for an allocation of those funds,” says Mohl. “Those funds will be distributed based on mutual agreement between Entergy and New York state.”
Joseph Hochreiter is superintendent of the Hendrick Hudson School District, which serves about 2,500 kids.
“What we know is the number-one indicator of property value is how well your schools perform,” Hochreiter says. “And I can tell you that if 30 percent of our revenue dries up as proposed, we’re going to have to make some very dangerous and very unfortunate decisions.”
He vows to work with area elected officials and hopes the governor comes to the table with a plan. Astorino accuses Cuomo of driving business and residents out of New York.
“The last middle-class person in this state is going to turn off the lights, literally,” Astorino says.
Meanwhile, Cuomo unveiled a number of proposals during his regional State of the State speeches under the umbrella of a proposed Middle Class Recovery Act.