FORT EDWARD — Fort Edward town property owners face hefty property tax increases next year if town officials are unable to secure funding for delinquent property taxes due to Washington County.
“Roughly, it would be a 40.86% increase on the town portion of the tax,” said Washington County Treasurer Al Nolette on Thursday afternoon, after a rough calculation of the numbers.
Nolette said this number is based on the town and fire district being on the same levy. Combined, Fort Edward town and fire district owe Washington County $454,558, which Nolette said will go on the town tax levy if not paid by Dec. 1.
“If the current rate is around $4.75 per thousand (of assessed valuation), the additional levy would generate 6.163 per thousand,” Nolette said, stressing these are approximate numbers. “With those rates, the town tax on a $150,000 home would go from $656.25 to $924.45.”
These threatened increases stem from a longstanding property tax saga that began after WCC, the previous owner of the former General Electric Co. dewatering facility, stopped paying millions of dollars in property taxes because of a tax assessment that WCC believed was out of line.
After three years in litigation, a settlement between the town and WCC was finally reached in March, with WCC paying a lesser amount on a revised assessment.
During the time WCC was not making payments on its tax bill, the county continued to make the town whole, leaving the county without that tax revenue.
During the negotiations with WCC, Fort Edward Supervisor Terry Middleton told the Washington County Board of Supervisors several times that the town would pay its delinquent taxes.
In an earlier county Finance Committee meeting, Middleton assured supervisors the town would pay by Sept. 1.
In August, he told The Post-Star the town would make the payment by the end of September.
And in Thursday’s Finance Committee meeting in Fort Edward, county Budget Officer Dan Shaw shared with the committee that Middleton said the town would pay by November.
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The Post-Star contacted Middleton on Friday afternoon regarding the town’s intent to pay and the looming tax increase, but Middleton paused, then said there was a bad phone connection.
Later Friday night, Middleton said, “We have every intention on paying back the county before Dec. 1 so it is not added to the levy.”
On Monday, the Fort Edward Town Board passed a resolution allowing Middleton to seek information from banks regarding a bond issue not to exceed $350,000. Fort Edward Town Attorney Don Boyajian said the resolution does not mean the town will necessarily borrow the funds.
“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.”
During the August Finance Committee meeting, Granville Supervisor Matt Hicks expressed his anger about the situation.
“That’s our money, that’s Washington County’s money,” he said. “That’s due us, it’s money we should have. I’m hoping you can tell us the first day that’s due for foreclosure we have to get ahead of the situation and get that back, because that’s insane.”
According to Nolette, the earliest the dewatering site, now owned by the Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp., could go up for county foreclosure auction is Jan. 2, 2021.
“Five months ago we sat here and we were the ones who compromised and capitulated to make it work so everybody could make a deal,” said Hicks last month, referring to the court-ordered settlement agreed to between the school district, the town and WCC.