Albany, NY – The surprise announcement in January 2017 that the Indian Point nuclear power plant would close by 2021 came as a shock to local communities, which suddenly found themselves worrying about their mortgages, their jobs, and whether their local schools would stay open. The Hendrick Hudson School District, which serves nearly 2,500 students, derives about a third of its annual budget-or $24 million-from Indian Point. Because of the plant’s closure, the school district will lose tens of millions in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) revenue that they currently receive from Indian Point.
Knowing something needed to be done to protect local taxpayers from future financial hardship, Senator Murphy sponsored Senate Bill 7054, which would allow the State Education Department to treat the cost of two capital improvement projects as being valid financial obligations to the Hendrick Hudson Central School District.
“This bill is of critical importance to the Hendrick Hudson Central School District as they prepare for the impending closure of the Indian Point nuclear facility,” said Senator Murphy. “Due to this impending financial hardship, it is critical that the Hendrick Hudson Central School District receive their full building aid for these projects.”
Hendrick Hudson School District Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter stated, “The school district’s Entergy PILOT accounts for thirty percent of our total revenue. Without increased aid, additional funding and special legislation, our children, staff and taxpayers will pay the consequences of reduced programs, widespread layoffs, monumental tax increases and the threat of plummeting property values. Not only do we need such measures by the time Entergy closes Indian Point, we also need to begin these deliberations in short order.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo vetoed the bill last year saying, “Each of these bills would authorize, outside of the State Budget process, payment of State education aid above the amounts calculated and previously agreed to under current law. These bills would extend or forgive payback of State building aid payments for the Newburgh City School District, the Panama Central School District, and the Hendrick Hudson Central School District, even though these three districts failed to meet long-standing statutory requirements of aid eligibility.”
Referring specifically to the Hendrick Hudson School District, Cuomo wrote: “The Hendrick Hudson Central School District is seeking forgiveness of certain building aid penalties. The District was granted authority to establish a special tax stabilization reserve fund as part of the 2017-18 State budget to help ease future changes to the District’s established tax base. Further, I’ve established a Task Force to address the impact of Indian Point nuclear power plant’s closure, and have included an education representative from my office on that Task Force. I’m acutely concerned with the long-term financial viability of this community after Indian Point closes, and will continue to work with local leaders and state legislators to find ways to address the needs of the school district and community, including through State budget negotiations.”
As a vital first step to help the community contend with the closure of Indian Point, in April 2018 Senator Terrence Murphy led a bipartisan coalition of state, county, and local officials in announcing that $24 million in state funds had been allocated in aid to the New York State Electric Generation Facility Cessation Mitigation Program.