By Jim Poole
Bill Cherry contends the payment in lieu of taxes agreement with Iroquois Gas is fair, despite what critics claim.
The Schoharie County Treasurer last week released a few more details about the Iroquois PILOT, which has yet to be approved by Iroquois or the county.
Critics hit Mr. Cherry hard several weeks ago for what they felt was a tax deal that gives Iroquois a big break.
But Mr. Cherry argued that the pending PILOT will help the county, while at the same time Iroquois will pay its fair share of taxes.
A news story in the December 24 Times-Journal reported that Iroquois Gas, which has pipelines in several towns and a compressor station in Wright, has had a PILOT for years. That's incorrect; the PILOT being finalized now is the first.
Iroquois has been paying its taxes all along, Mr. Cherry said, but at the same time the company has been suing the county, four towns and the Schoharie Central School District to seek a refund taxes.
"All the municipalities joined to defend their assessments," Mr. Cherry said. "There was a cost in legal fees and for professional appraisers."
And there would have been more costs had Iroquois won.
In the most recent suit, which covered three tax years, Iroquois wanted a refund of $3.6 million.
In an attempt to end the longstanding lawsuit, Marjorie Troidl of the county Real Property Tax Office got all sides to meet.
The PILOT that's been agreed upon but not formally approved achieves three goals, Mr. Cherry said:
•It resolves and settles all litigation.
•It waives Iroquois' claims to refunds. "If the court ruled in their favor, the school district, towns and the county would have had to come up with that money," Mr. Cherry said.
•The PILOT also requires Iroquois to continue paying its full amount of taxes. In 2015, the amount is $1.78 million, and there will be small escalations in the future.
Iroquois is seeking to expand its Wright compressor station. The PILOT doesn't cover that expansion.
If Iroquois expands, "that's a different discussion," Mr. Cherry said.