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Press ahead with plan

July 15, 2012
The Leader Herald

The Hudson River-Black River Regulating District's plan to charge five downstream counties and the state may not be perfect, but it may solve a serious problem.

The district's Board of Directors recently developed a restructured plan on how much the organization wants to charge the five counties -Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Warren and Washington - along with the state for providing flood-control services.

The plan had to be restructured because while a state appeals court in May upheld the district's plan to bill the five counties for flood-control benefits, the court also ordered the district to bill the state.

Of course, it seems likely the legal challenges to the plan will continue.

The counties' attorney in the matter, Mark J. Schachner, said Thursday he has been authorized to try to appeal the recent court decision.

It's unfortunate more money may be spent fighting the plan, when those resources could be better spent on other needs.

Since a court ruled in 2008 the regulating district no longer could charge fees to downstream power companies, the district has been starved for revenue. It's been unable to pay local property taxes.

It's understandable why the downstream counties, and even the state, would balk at paying the fees. In a struggling economic environment, it's difficult to come up with any extra money, especially millions of dollars. The payments would be difficult to explain to the counties' taxpayers.

However, the district should proceed with its plan.

The effort to tax the counties has survived two court challenges so far - albeit modified to include the state. The regulating district needs the money to pay the property taxes it owes to schools and localities at the Great Sacandaga Lake and other regulating district properties.

There's an argument to be made the state should step in and fund the regulating district. Capital Region officials also could press their federal representatives to change the law so the downstream power companies can be charged again.

Unfortunately, those possibilities are not on the table.



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