FORT EDWARD — The school district will have to pay back $1.855 million to General Electric, as part of a settlement of a lawsuit over the assessment of the company’s former dewatering plant.
GE had challenged the assessment of two properties for a seven-year period that ended in 2015, when the company ended its project to dredge the Hudson River to remove PCBs.
The village and town of Fort Edward and Washington County were all parties to the lawsuit. The Fort Edward school board and Town Board approved the settlement on Monday and the Village Board and county Board of Supervisors will approve it at upcoming meetings.
GE spokesman Mark Behan said the parties have reached an acceptable solution.
The company technically did not own the two parcels on Towpath Lane, but Behan said its lease agreement required that it pay the property taxes.
GE challenged the assessment as being too high. The company will receive a total refund of $3.35 million under the settlement, Behan said, with the school district paying the largest share/
“The $16.65 million in net taxes to the municipalities and school districts will still make GE the largest taxpayer in the town, village and school district,” Behan said.
GE has been a major employer and taxpayer in the community since 1942, Behan said.
“We were very pleased to work out a settlement,” he said.
The school district is tapping the money from a reserve fund it had specifically set up for these tax challenges.
Superintendent of Schools Daniel Ward did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday.
The repayment comes on top of another financial blow caused by the completion of the dredging project. The assessed value for the two dewatering plant parcels has been lowered from a combined $72.6 million to nearly $37.5 million, resulting in a loss of about $950,000 in tax revenue to the district.
The town will have to pay back $400,000 as part of the settlement, according to Supervisor Mitch Suprenant. He said the town could spread the payments over two years, but will pay the whole thing on Dec. 1, barring a catastrophe.
Town officials saved up money for the tax challenge. Suprenant said they felt it was time to make a deal with GE.
“It’s not going to be easy to write that check, but we’re putting a close to it,” he said. “We were hoping to not have to pay anything. But if we got to that point, it would be very expensive and no guarantees.”
The breakdown for how much the two other parties in the lawsuit will have to pay was not available.
An effort to attract new industry to the former dewatering plant property has not borne fruit. A project to build rail cars at the site is not happening because by a bid by Bombardier and CRRC was not accepted by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.