The NYS Assembly left Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Forest Preserve property tax changes out of its one-house budget bill late Monday night. The Assembly budget bill, a statement of priorities for the State Assembly, is expected to go to a vote later this week. The State Senate is expected to release its own one-house budget this week as well.
Cuomo’s budget proposes a cap on Forest Preserve property tax assessments and changes to state law from the current system of locally assessed property taxes to a system of Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOTs). (First reported by Anthony Hall here at the Adirondack Almanack.)
“The State Assembly went to bat for Adirondack communities in its budget resolution,” said Peter Bauer, Executive Director of Protect the Adirondacks, in a statement sent to the press. “State payment of local taxes to keep Adirondack and Catskill communities whole is an important part of the management of the Forest Preserve. The State Assembly rejected this bad idea and defended both the Forest Preserve and Adirondack communities.”
“Hats off to Assembly member Billy Jones for taking a stand to protect Adirondack communities. He worked effectively with Catskill Assembly members Eileen Gunther and Kevin Cahill to beat back this unwise policy and law change,” Bauer’s statement said.
Forest Preserve lands, like private forest lands, are taxed according to a variety of factors, such as road frontage, interior roads, shoreline, accessibility of shoreline areas, and timber value, among other things. State foresters periodically cruise timber in places like the Seward Range in the High Peaks Wilderness. The state’s assessments are shared with local municipalities, which can then use their own assessments or the state assessments.
Some towns with high Forest Preserve land holdings receive large amounts. In 2010, Essex saw $1.9 million in tax payments from the state, Minerva $3.1 million, Newcomb $3.7 million, North Elba $1.8 million, North Hudson $1.1 million, Franklin $1.1 million, Harrietstown $2.3 million, Santa Clara $2 million, Arietta $3.6, Indian Lake $2.6 million, Lake Pleasant $1.8 million, Long Lake $3.1 million, and Wells $2.4 million, among others. Many other towns with smaller Forest Preserve holdings receive far smaller payments, such as Chesterfield and Crown Point in Essex County with around $100,000 each.
“We’ve always looked at state payment of Forest Preserve taxes based on local assessments as an important part of the state’s annual management and maintenance of the Adirondack Park. State tax payments are a cornerstone of Park policy, something that helps make many Adirondack communities viable. The proposed tax cap is a major change to a core part of the Park’s civic infrastructure, a breach of faith for all who believe in the Adirondack Park and want to see it succeed,” said Peter Bauer.
You can read all of the Almanack‘s reporting about the ad valorem tax cap and PILOT proposal here.