Jefferson County lawmakers deny tax breaks to green energy projects

Jul 7, 2016

Jefferson County lawmakers have voted not to grant tax breaks for big solar and wind projects. County leaders say large-scale alternative energy farms do not provide the county with enough incentives to justify a tax deal.

Legislature Chairman Scott Gray said wind developers are approaching towns in Jefferson County not expecting to pay their full share of taxes. 

“You’re asking the property tax payers of this community to subsidize a project. So we want to make sure there is something in return for those taxpayers’ investments."

Gray said big wind and solar projects only create a handful of jobs. They don’t circulate enough money throughout the local economy. and what money is made, he said, goes to the company’s investors.

Jefferson County Legislator Scott Gray says renewable energy projects only create a handful of jobs.
Credit Julia Botero / WRVO News

“It’s certainly not adding anything to our community so whatever revenue is being generated is being exported," said Gray.

Legislator Jeremiah Maxon said the Galloo Island wind farm is a good example of a project that will only benefit a few, mainly the person who owns land on the Lake Ontario island. He said the developer, Apex Energy, is expecting to get a tax break, anyway.

“They are proposing a 80 percent tax abatement, 20 percent of the full value that they should be paying every year. They saying we prefer to pay 20 percent,” said Maxon.

Maxon said it’s hard to see the county's new policy is about setting the bar for all projects to come.

“Our goal is not to discourage development. It’s to encourage development with your own money.”

Legislators said with the state mandated tax cap they have to be careful about protecting revenue. The vote passed with a majority in favor of the new policy. Only one legislator voted against it. Allen Drake represents the towns of Philadelphia and Antwerp. He said he’d rather local people decide on energy projects on a case by case basis.

 “I think there are some areas that could use economic development if these windmills would come in. I’m not for wind or against wind. I just want to make sure the local people have a say," Drake said.

Towns, villages and school districts can still strike their own tax deals. The Jefferson  County Industrial Development Agency also has a say on a wind developer's tax agreement, but the county legislature made it clear it expect developers to pay the full tax rate.