Wind Power Means Big Savings for Town in Wyoming County, NY

Exerpts from Article by Buffalo Business First Reporter- David Bertola

One small Western New York town is spending and saving big, thanks to money blowing in from wind power.

The plan in the Town of Eagle to use wind power to eliminate town taxes and garbage fees for the 1,200 who live there seems to be working. But there are plans to do more, and Wyoming County Superisor Joseph Kushner is already preparing for the time when the $1 million the town receives annually from a wind-power company comes to an end.

Four years ago, Kushner said roads were all re-paved, senior and summer programs began being offered at no cost and a new $130,000 ambulance was purchased. The town also added a new fire truck and plow truck, each of which cost $200,000.

All was possible because of the infusion of about $970,000 annually from a 20-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement Eagle had with Noble Wind Energy LLC, which installed 93 turbines in Wyoming County. Sixty-seven are south of Route 39, and 26 are north of it...

...Since 2010, Eagle’s agreement with Noble has resulted in the purchase of two 10-wheel trucks, two tractors and a pickup truck for the highway department, as well as more new paving. A renovated highway building, and the installation of playground equipment and park benches have also resulted from wind-power funding.

But Kushner, who also holds the title of Eagle town supervisor, isn’t stopping there. While he talks about what’s already been done, he’s also looking ahead and preparing for when the PILOT progam ends in eight to 10 years.

“We’re in the process of trying to get a municipal law that will allow us to put away a lot of fund balance for tax relief,” he said. “We also are looking to be able to alleviate taxes, because when this project goes away, we don’t want taxpayers to be hit with a full tax burden.”

While there currently are no town taxes in Eagle, Kushner knows it won’t be that way forever. So the town has started saving money in a tax relief fund, and has saved at least $2 million so far.

“We have a large fund balance for a small town,” he said.

Because the goal is to eventually reduce the tax rate by 50 percent, he’s been working with the state comptroller’s office to revise municipal law. And while a State Senate bill passed unanimously to allow that to happen, it never came out of the Assembly. Kushner expects that it will next year.

“We expect it to pass easily,” he said. “It’s a recommendation of the comptroller’s office, and only affects our town.”