Subcommittee members Tom Jones, CJ DelVecchio, Katrina Binkewicz, Ruth Hopkins and Ed Lavigne began what will turn into a detailed presentation of benefits to the town, including dollar values of tangible benefits as well as an analysis of projected increases that will result if no sewer is constructed. While the committee expects tangible benefits from sewer, members are concerned about the votes of the majority of town property-owners who will not recieve service in the inital phase of the project. Their hope is that the dollar amount of the benefits will offset or exceed the annual sewer fee for those properties.
In its first meeting Wednesday the subcommittee identified three main categories of benefits including growing the Town's tax base, protecting the environment, quality of life, and the benefit of building a sewer now vs. the possibility of constructing one later. Hopkins noted that more data is needed to support claims of tangible benefits.
Jones, a former Lansing Schools Business Administrator, presented a detailed analysis of the effect of sewer and development it will bring on school tax rates over the next ten years. He estimates that by the 2022-23 school year the tax rate could go as high as $27.35 per $1000 of assessed property value if the power plant can't stay open and with no further development. With projected town center development Jones calculated the tax rate at $25.76, and with all projected development $24.11. There at least three known developments that may be constructed outside the town center area if sewer is available, as well as two that are immediately planned for the town center, again dependent on sewer. Additionally new construction currently in the planning phase within the Warren Road sewer district will bring tax revenue to the town.
The committee also heard from Town Attorney Guy Krogh on whether the township can set aside a fund to help those in need, especially with hookup costs. Krogh said that using town and state tax money for individuals' use is forbidden, but that some federal funds may be used that way. Better Housing for Tompkins County Executive Director John Spence has said his organization can disperse such grants to qualifying property-owners.
Krogh also advised the committee that the best choice of lead agency for the project is the New York State Department Of Environmental Conservation (DEC) because the agency has resources on hand to provide environmental data needed before a sewer can be approved. He said that most such projects use the DEC as lead agency, and that doing so saves the Town money that would otherwise be paid to consultants to produce the data.
Town Engineer David Herrick continues to gather data on properties around the town and their impact on sewer revenue. He has been focussing on agriculture parcels and how special rules for charging different kinds of parcels will impact the overall cost per property. The committee had hoped he would have this information this week, but surprisingly fewer ag parcels than expected turn out to be within the district boundaries. The committee now hopes to have the final calculations next week.
That would put the Town Board on track to vote on sewer at their February 6th meeting. That vote simply begins the process of forming a sewer district. Committee member Andy Sciarabba expressed concern that a state grant for more than $2.5 million may be in jeopardy if substantial progress is not made before the end of the year. Officials estimate that the sewer will come to a vote in September.