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Fort Edward Town Board

The Fort Edward Town Board meets Monday night at Town Hall. 

FORT EDWARD — The town is assessing how to pay back about $360,000 it owes to Washington County, and one option to help save town residents from a sizable tax increase is to bond for it.

While Town Board members wouldn’t commit to bonding yet, they unanimously passed a resolution that would allow Town Supervisor Terry Middleton to bond for an amount not to exceed $350,000, during their monthly meeting Monday night.

The money owed to Washington County stems from the tax assessment fiasco around the former General Electric Co. dewatering site.

The former owners of the site, a company called WCC, stopped paying taxes on the land and sued for a reduced assessment.

According to law, when someone stops paying property taxes, it’s up to the county to make up that gap and pay the local municipalities. It did so for the past few years.

Earlier this year, however, WCC succeeded in reducing the property assessment, but Washington County had made payments to the local municipalities based on the higher assessment.

So, the village, town, school district, fire district and sewer district owe the county money on the 2017 and 2018 corrected bills, said Washington County Treasurer Al Nolette on Tuesday.

This is what Nolette said is owed to Washington County:

  • Town of Fort Edward: $360,168
  • Village of Fort Edward: $342,077
  • Fort Edward Union Free School District: $1,765,375

Fort Edward Fire District: $94,390

  • Sewer District: $38,253

Technically, the payments were due on April 1, Nolette said. Several Washington County supervisors have been outraged over the matter, concerned that their constituents have been carrying the financial burdens of Fort Edward.

Hartford Supervisor Dana Haff had said at last month’s county Finance Committee meeting that he was done waiting for the money.

“Let’s collect the money,” Haff had said. “Four percent of this is Hartford’s money. We’ve been fools once, let’s not be fools again.”

Before the WCC settlement, the Fort Edward Town Board anticipated there would be a reduction in the assessment and budgeted annual payments to Washington County starting in 2019. The first one was for $149,000.

With town budget season drawing near, board members will look at a draft 2020 budget in October.

Over the course of several minutes Monday night, Middleton read a four-page resolution that would give him the authority to bond for $350,000 or less.

Katie DeGroot, a local resident, asked Middleton to translate what he had just read.

“We get the county off our back,” said Neal Orsini, a board member.

DeGroot and Town Attorney Don Boyajian had a back-and-forth discussion when DeGroot tried to clarify if the town owed $350,000 to Washington County, and if so, where exactly the money was coming from, and if it would be added to the tax levy.

Boyajian said the bond resolution was “just authorizing the ability to do this if we so choose.”

“So you’re not going to do it,” DeGroot asked.

“We’re authorizing the town to do it in the amount of $350,000 if needed for this one purpose,” Boyajian said.

“So again, is this going to happen? You’re doing this?” DeGroot continued.

Boyajian said that’s the plan.

DeGroot asked where the money to repay the bank issuing a bond would come from. Middleton said the town had budgeted for it, referring to the annual payments it budgeted for last year.

DeGroot asked if Middleton had any idea what next year’s tax increase would be, and Middleton said no.

“We don’t even know if we’re going to be doing the bonding, because we need to go to a bank and get rates,” Boyajian said. “You can’t do any of that until you have a resolution saying that we can look into this.”

Middleton said the plan is to bond for five years.

DeGroot asked if there were other options.

“It would be added to our levy, and guaranteed everybody’s taxes will go up then,” Middleton said. “It would be a large amount.”

Nolette said Tuesday that the town can either pay the money back, or it can let it go, causing it to automatically go onto town residents’ taxy levy. Nolette has sent out letters demanding the payments back to Washington County, and will share those with supervisors at an upcoming Finance Committee meeting.

The Washington County Finance Committee will meet at 9:30 a.m. Thursday in Conference Room 1 on the second floor of County Office Building B, 383 Broadway, Fort Edward.

The town will hold a budget workshop at 10 a.m. on Oct. 2, at Fort Edward Town Hall, 118 Broadway. A public hearing on the draft town budget is scheduled for 6:50 p.m. on Oct. 15 at Town Hall.

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Reporter Gwendolyn Craig can be reached at (518) 742-3238 or gcraig@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @gwendolynnn1.

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