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Senate OKs revenue-sharing agreement

Gloversville, town of Johnstown bill will need to go back to Legislature

December 24, 2008
By ZACH SUBAR, The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN-The state Senate approved an agreement last week between the town and Gloversville to allow them to share revenue, but it will not become law this year because the state Assembly already has ended its 2008 session.

The bill will need to be re-entered into the Legislature next year, since the Assembly can't approve a 2008 bill once the year has ended. The Senate must pass it again, as well.

"We're getting all the t's crossed and the i's dotted," said Town Board member Jack Wilson, who helped draft the agreement. "That's something that takes time."

The proposed agreement, called home rule legislation, would enable the town and Gloversville to share water and sewer services. In return, the town would share taxes generated by new development there.

"The town has the land, the city has the services," said Wilson.

The town would establish an economic improvement zoning district in an area where new building was taking place, and would collect fees associated with that district. It would then evenly split tax revenues from new developments at a tax rate close to the city's rate.

The Legislature passed a revenue sharing agreement between the two in 2001, but the matter was revisited because revenue sharing in the old agreement was based on the town tax rate, and Gloversville wanted it to be higher. The new measure calls for it to be based on a rate between the town's and the city's.

Town officials want to include the city of Johnstown in the agreement, but the city has not signed on. Johnstown Mayor Sarah Slingerland said she needed to first see if the agreement made fiscal sense for the city.

"When we enter into agreements, we have to look at what costs would be helpful for the city and what the return revenues would be," she said.

She said the city needed to ensure such a measure would not negatively affect its tax rate.

In April 2008, the New York State Commission on Local Government Efficiency and Competitiveness recommended the Legislature authorize these sorts of tax sharing agreements statewide.

This recommendation has not yet been adopted. Because of this, if the city of Johnstown wanted to enter into the agreement, new legislation would be necessary to allow the city to take part.

Staffers of state Sen. Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, said they hoped the legislation would lay the groundwork for other such agreements throughout the state.

"We sort of view what's going on in Gloversville and Johnstown as a sort of test case," said Peter Edman, a legislative aide for Farley.

Wilson said the proposed Wal-Mart supercenter on Hales Mills Road is an example of development that would help both parties.

"It will benefit this whole area," he said. "Things will happen that people would rather shop here rather than down the line in Saratoga."

Arguments over language derailed a June attempt to pass the measure. A bill presented before the Legislature that month included a line saying the city water board, an independent entity from the city itself, "may" enter into the revenue sharing agreement. That bill was passed in the Senate but was held up in the Assembly, where some legislators wanted that word changed to "must."

The bill was rewritten to make the language stronger in regard to the city Water Board.

Edman said it was impossible to require the water boards to cooperate.

"It was a minor sort of word change," he said. "We didn't think it really made that much of a difference."



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