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Brookfield Power will see $30 million drop in assessment in Colton over next six years

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COLTON — It was an agreement six years in the making, but the town of Colton and Brookfield Power have reached a settlement regarding the assessed values of six Erie Boulevard Hydropower-owned properties in Colton.

The result will be a drop of $30 million over the next six years in the assessment on Brookfield’s hydroelectric facilities in Colton, and the first reassessment in the town in more than four decades will mean higher taxes for most residential property owners.

Colton, thanks in part to receiving about $2 million a year in taxes from Brookfield, has traditionally enjoyed some of the lowest tax rates in St. Lawrence County. The town has an equalization rate of just 4.21 percent, meaning a house selling for $100,000 would be assessed at $4,210. The town’s general fund and highway taxes for 2013 are $62.50 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and Colton-Pierrepont Central School District residents in the town of Colton had a tax rate of $357.18 per $1,000 for the 2012-13 school year.

Brookfield Renewable Energy Group representative Paul Brenton, along with the group’s attorney, Peter Crossett, joined Colton Supervisor Dennis B. Bulger and town attorney Eric J. Gustafson in the school auditorium earlier this week to explain the decision to property owners. The president of KLW Appraisal Group, Robert Koszarek, town assessor Tina M. Miller and DPW Superintendent Darren T. Richards also were present at the meeting.

The settlement runs through 2019, with the assessed value of the properties dropping by $5 million each year. The assessed value for 2013 is $175 million, and by 2019, it will drop to $145 million.

“We just couldn’t come up with the same assessed evaluation, so that’s kind of the nature of the problem. The assessments as we saw them were frankly a little high,” Mr. Gustafson said.

Mr. Gustafson went on to say that as a result of five years of litigation, the settlement provides no refunds, no interest and no costs, noting the cost of litigation could have reached as high as $10 million in refunds. “That’s a huge benefit to the town, avoiding the most potentially devastating consequences,” he said.

Additionally, the town as part of the settlement has agreed to conduct a revaluation of all of the properties in the town.

“We don’t know what the impact of re-evaluation will be. I couldn’t even guess right now what that will be because that hasn’t been done for 20 or 30 years,” Mr. Bulger said.

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