Broadalbin to enact law to tax future solar farms

The town of Broadalbin held a regular meeting Tuesday night. From left is Councilman Michael Greco, Supervisor Sheila Perry, Councilwoman Jennifer Gilston and Councilman Dave Bogardus, right. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

BROADALBIN — The town introduced Local Law Four of 2019 during its regular meeting Tuesday that would not allow solar farms to be tax exempt.

Town Attorney Carmen Greco said the purpose of the law is to opt out of the Real Property Tax Law section 487 to capture tax revenue from the development of solar facilities and to ensure those facilities are treated equally with other commercial properties within the town.

“No exemption under Real Property Tax Law section 487 shall be applicable to town of Broadalbin taxes, with respect to any solar or wind energy system or farm waste energy system,” Greco read from the proposed local law. “No exemption under Real Property Tax Law section 487 shall be applicable to town of Broadalbin taxes with respect to any micro, hydro-electric energy system, fuel electric generating system, micro-combined heat and power generated equipment system or electric energy, storage equipment or electric energy storage system.”

The town board briefly discussed the proposed local law with one concern being that it could potentially discourage companies from wanting to build solar farms in the town.

“I don’t want to discourage a home owner using real energy,” said Councilman David Bogardus. “That’s something I want to encourage, not discourage. I want to make sure this local law is not doing that.”

Supervisor Sheila Perry said the town was made aware of the law by town of Perth Supervisor Gregory Fagan to make solar companies pay property taxes.

Town Assessor Lourie Bollack agreed with Perry stating that solar farms should not be exempt from paying property taxes and if the law is not passed, the town should pay closer attention to its Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs, also known as PILOT.

Bollack said the solar farm in town owns the land, so it is not leased.

“What happens in a case like this is the equipment only has a life expectancy of 10 years, with the breakdown starting at as low as eight years, so when they’re offered a 10-year PILOT, it varies from year-to-year how much they’re going to pay,” Bollack said. “When the life expectancy of the solar panels start to depreciate, there’s your 10-year PILOT. And they leave because they serve no value to them.”

“From an assessor’s point of view, they should be paying something for the land, not exempt for the PILOT of 10 years. The PILOT of 10 years has to do with the county,” Bollack continued. “The county receives so much money and then the county issues it back to the different municipalities. From the assessor’s point of view, land is land. If the solar farm sells it to residential and someone comes in and builds 10 homes, you’re going to have to split the land value 10 times, so again they’re making money because they’re not paying taxes on anything.”

The town board scheduled a public hearing on the proposed local law on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m., before the board will vote on the law.