FORT EDWARD — Washington County will finally collect on millions of dollars owed in delinquent taxes on the former General Electric Co. dewatering site in Fort Edward, following a court-ordered settlement filed Wednesday.
As the result of a several-year-long negotiated property assessment challenge among WCC, the previous owner of the two Fort Edward tax parcels; the Fort Edward town assessor; the Fort Edward Board of Assessment Review; and the Fort Edward school district, all parties will pay a portion of the taxes owed on the dramatically reduced property assessment.
According to court documents, the 2016 agreed-upon assessment for the two parcels was reduced by $63,910,600, and in 2017 the assessment for the two parcels was reduced by $29,065,000.
The 2018 assessment was previously reduced.
Going forward, the assessments for 2019, 2020 and 2021 will hold at $3,440,000 and $4,560,000 for the two parcels.
“At least we know what the numbers are now,” said County Attorney Roger Wickes on Thursday. “Now we will get some of our money.”
Because the county was out nearly $6.8 million (with interest and penalties) in back taxes, the Washington County Board of Supervisors voted at its March 15 meeting to approve taking the parcels off the tax rolls. That way, the county treasurer could charge back the full amount to the Fort Edward taxing entities if a settlement was not reached by close of business on March 27.
Wednesday’s settlement means that some of the delinquent tax burden will be removed from the Fort Edward entities.
“If they did not settle for those years, we would have had to pay. The school would have the biggest hit, but it would have been divided up,” said Fort Edward Supervisor Terry Middleton on Thursday. “I’m very pleased.”
According to County Treasurer Al Nolette, as a result of the agreed-upon reduced property assessments for the two parcels for 2016, 2017 and 2018, the taxes owed by the end of the month include the following: WCC, $1,045,901.47; Fort Edward Village, $586,000; Fort Edward school district, $1.988 million; Fort Edward Fire District, $94,000; and Fort Edward Sewer District, $38,000.
The town of Fort Edward owes $360,000 by Sept. 1.
If WCC does not pay the agreed-amount by the end of the month, the supervisors can vote before April 1 to take the parcels off the tax rolls and charge back everything to the Fort Edward taxing entities.
Additionally, in the March meeting, supervisors approved removing the interest and penalties on the taxes owed. In the absence of a March 29 payment, the supervisors could vote to restore interest and penalties, he said.
“But I don’t have any indication they will not pay,” Nolette said.
The village and school payments to the county are a bit different, because according to state tax law, they must be made whole on April 1 for unpaid taxes. As part of the settlement, the county will pay the make-whole payment (which is about half of what they owe the county for the back taxes) and the village and the school will return that portion to the county.
The only option for the town is to write a check for $360,000 no later than Sept. 1. If the town does not pay the county, the amount owed will go on its tax levy and get spread among town residents for payment, said Nolette.
The two parcels in question were donated in December to the newly created Fort Edward Local Property Development Corp. which is listed with the state as a domestic nonprofit.
The 2019 property taxes are due by April 2 on the parcels owned by the new development corporation, but Nolette said the status of the taxes is unclear at this time.
“Depending on how they filed their paperwork,” said Nolette. “There are still questions about the future.”
According to court records, if any portion of the settlement agreement is not followed, the issue goes back to the court.
“A motion would have to be filed,” said County Attorney Wickes.