Regulating district prepares to pay back taxes

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District is closer to paying the taxes it owes Fulton County after the regulating district board approved agreements Tuesday with the five downstream counties from which the district plans to collect money.

The regulating district plans to pay some of the taxes it owes by the end of this month and more taxes next year, said Michael Clark, executive director of the regulating district.

The regulating district owes $3.3 million to Fulton County, which paid local school district taxes for the regulating district, said county Treasurer Terry Blodgett.

Clark said paying the back taxes is part of the district’s budget.

“I remind everybody all the time that taxes for the last decade or more have been 50 percent of Hudson River’s budget,” Clark said.

Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said he was not aware of the specifics of the plan for the district to pay the taxes, but he said the revenue would benefit the county and municipalities in the region.

“It is good news for all parties concerned,” Stead said. “It complicated county budgeting considerably because anything like that does affect cash flow and creates a degree of uncertainty anytime we are doing our financial planning for the future. Clearing this matter up certainly will add to the stability of Fulton County’s finances and certainly to the stability of the local school districts as well.”

The regulating district reached agreements with Albany, Rensselaer, Warren and Washington counties in late February for $3.5 million in assessments.

The $3.5 million will be split up among the downstream counties based on a previous calculation of how much each county benefits from flood protection, Clark said.

The $3.5 million and future annual fees will be divided this way: Albany County paying just under 38 percent; Saratoga County just over 29 percent; Rensselaer County just over 22 percent; Warren County just under 7 percent; and Washington County just under 4 percent.

He said the assessments for this year and going forward are $2.9 million for the next five years.

Saratoga County officials approved a deal with the regulating district earlier in March, agreeing to pay $1.2 million to the district. The county was the last of five to approve the deal.

The district sought payment from the five counties after a 2008 court order said the district no longer could charge downstream hydropower companies for flood-control services.

The downstream counties, represented by attorney Mark Schachner, have challenged the charges since 2010, arguing they hadn’t been required to pay the charges before then. The regulating district said because the counties are downstream of the Conklingville Dam, northeast of the Great Sacandaga Lake in Hadley, it is appropriate for the counties to be charged.

Clark said approval of the settlement from the state Department of Environmental Conservation is still required.

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