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NYS Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton and Senator Pam Helming introduced bills Wednesday that would allow the Lansing School District to create a Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund. In the face of draconian revenue loss from the devaluation of the Cayuga Power Plant a Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund to gradually save money now to avoid large tax rate hikes later. A year and a half ago Lansing Schools Business Administrator Mary June King proposed creating the reserve as one of many measures school officials were considering to try to stabilize school taxes. But there was a catch: the district could only establish the reserve if the state legislature enacted it into law.

"Our intention is for our advocacy group to get involved in working with our state legislators to get them -- it's got to be a legislative action -- to give us special dispensation to create a reserve relative to this power plant," King explained to the Board Of Education at a January of 2016 meeting.

King got the idea during an audit in which she found that the Mexico, New York school district received a legislative dispensation years ago to create a special reserve to cushion the tax impact if a nearby nuclear power plant closes. The district had been contributing to the reserve for years, preparing the community for the tax revenue loss that represents.

"We do need access to possibly $1.3 million if the plant does close," said School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso in early 2016. "We want to have what happened in 2009 not happen again. It did effect our programming, especially in the middle and high schools. So whatever the PSC decides, hopefully we will push forward with this Tax Stabilization Reserve Fund that will allow us to put money aside for that purpose."

At that time the district had just defended itself against an acusation in a State Comptroller's audit that it had collected too much money in taxes.  The audit found the District may have over-taxed, kept too much money in reserves without spending the reserves down, and overestimated appropriations when deciding on the budget and setting the tax levy.  District officials countered that while the numbers were factually correct, they had responsibly squirreled away funds in anticipation of the Cayuga Power Plant possibly shutting down, offsetting what could amount to an additional $1.3 million on the backs of Lansing property owners.

The Assembly and Senate bills, specific to the Lansing Central School District, propose state authorization to establish the fund:

"The board of education is hereby authorized to establish an energy system tax stabilization reserve fund to lessen or prevent increases in the school district's real property tax levy resulting from decreases in revenue due to changes in or termination of the payments in lieu of taxes receivable by the school district provided, however, that no such fund shall be established unless approved by a majority vote of the voters present and voting on a separate ballot proposition therefor at either a special district meeting which the board of education may call for such purpose or at the annual district meeting and election, to be noticed and conducted in either case in accordance with article 41 of the education law. Such separate proposition shall set forth the maxi mum allowable balance to be deposited and held in the energy system stabilization reserve fund."

The bills outline how the district may pay into the reserve, as well as how much money may be saved there and specific rules and disclosures necessary when withdrawing from the fund.

If passed in the Assembly and Senate the bill will take effect immediately if signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo.