Holley school asked to allow tax discounts for commercial solar projects

Photo by Kristina Gabalski: A new playground at the Holley Elementary School nears completion. It is part of the ongoing Capital Project at the district.

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 22 August 2017 at 9:59 am

HOLLEY – The Holley Board of Education was asked on Monday to approve a resolution to allow for PILOT agreements to be established between the district and commercial solar farm energy systems.

Ron Vendetti, the code enforcement officer for the Town of Murray and Village  of Holley, attended the Board of Education meeting.

He said the school district earlier decided to opt out of tax exemptions for commercial solar developments. Without a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes), Vendetti said the commercial solar projects won’t move forward.

Vendetti has attended several conferences around the state and has worked with developers to better understand how municipalities and school districts are trying to regulate commercial solar farms. He said many developers are now look to construct 2 megawatt or less solar farms on 10 to 12 acre parcels due to the shorter review process by the state. The Town of Murray isn’t considered “a high priority area” by solar developers, but Vendetti said there could still be interest in Murray by developers.

Vendetti and school district attorney Jeff Martin noted the solar farms could increase property assessments significantly – as much as $5 million – and that PILOT agreements would mean the district would be receiving at least something in tax revenue.

“Forty percent value on a PILOT is better than 100 percent of nothing,” Vendetti said.

The Town of Murray recently adopted Local Law No. 3 of 2017 which requires developers of commercial solar farm energy systems to enter into a PILOT agreement with the town. The Board of Education needs only to approve a resolution, Jeff Martin said.

There are no commercial solar farms currently in Orleans County, but developers are showing an interest, Martin and Vendetti said.

The Village of Holley might enact the legislation because the former Diaz Chemical site potentially could be used for a commercial solar farm, Vendetti said.

School Board members took no action on Monday.  Board President Brenda Swanger asked Martin to continue to gather information for the board.

School supplies can be costly for parents

In other business, Swanger told Elementary School Principal Karri Schiavone that a parent had expressed concern over the length and expense of items on the school’s supply list for students for the upcoming school year.

“We have pared it down,” Schiavone said. “Teachers get $200 for supplies for the entire school year,” she said, and noted that is not enough to cover student supplies such as pencils, paper and folders.

“We have made (supply lists) consistent across grade levels,” Schiavone said.

Both the Elementary School and Middle School/High School do have supplies available for students who are in need, Schiavone and MS/HS principal Sue Cory said. During the district’s back to school night Sept. 5, tables will be made available for anyone who wishes to donate unused school supplies. Students in need of supplies will be able to take what they need at the same time.

The Holley Rotary Club has donated funds in the past to the district for the purpose of purchasing school supplies and would be donating $300 to $500 again for the coming school year, said Martin, a member of the Rotary Club.

Contractors working to have capital project done by school opening

In his report, District Superintendent Robert D’Angelo re-assured district administrators, teachers and staff that the on-going capital project work would not prevent school from opening on schedule Sept. 6.

“The project has an aggressive schedule,” D’Angelo said, and explained that it is not unusual for school officials to feel anxious when a project nears completion, but, “School will open on time and we will be in good shape.  The campus will be safe for occupation.”

D’Angelo said contractors will continue to be present on campus after the first day of school to complete jobs such as painting tennis courts and replanting grass.

“The end product will be something we can all be proud of,” he said.

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