The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District, which controls the Great Sacandaga Lake, is facing a growing tax debt. The district now owes more than $3 million in property taxes to Fulton County and several school districts around the lake.
The regulating district has been unable to pay its property taxes after the U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in 2008 the district no longer could charge fees to downstream hydropower companies. Those fees accounted for approximately 75 percent of the regulating district's revenue from the Hudson River area.
The regulating district has tried to regain revenue by assessing flood-control fees to Saratoga, Albany, Warren, Rensselaer and Washington counties, but this resulted in a lawsuit to block the assessments. The regulating district also has asked the state to pay the property taxes, and for permission to borrow from the district's Black River account, but these efforts also have been unsuccessful. Meanwhile, Fulton County and local school districts are suing the regulating district over the unpaid taxes.
The regulating district doesn't appear to have many strong options, but Fulton County recently endorsed a plan that could work.
The Board of Supervisors is supporting federal legislation that would permit the regulating district to assess fees on power providers that benefit from the district. This legislation, also backed by the Sacandaga Protection Committee, would allow the regulating district to once again charge the downstream hydropower companies that have gotten a break thanks to the 2008 court ruling.
We join the advocates of a federal measure. Without a way for the regulating district to replace the lost revenue, the county and our local schools will have to struggle with less money at a time they already are facing enormous financial challenges. Ultimately, either other local property taxpayers will end up making up the difference or more taxpayer-funded services will be lost, or a combination of both.
If the regulating district is unable to find a new revenue source, we can't see how the district can continue to operate under its current structure.
Our federal lawmakers should review the proposed legislation and push for its adoption.