MASSENA Lottery winners can receive their money up front, or have it spread out over a longer period of time.
The towns of Massena, Waddington and Louisville havent won the lottery, but will receive relicensing payments for the next 40 years from the New York Power Authority. Officials soon may discuss whether to accelerate those payments to receive more money over fewer years to invest in river tourism or another effort that could create jobs and add to the tax base.
St. Lawrence County and several towns, villages and school districts split a $1.7 million annual payment from NYPA, according to Deputy County Treasurer Robert Santamoor. Of that, $655,600 goes to the county, $284,000 to the town of Massena, $160,000 to the town of Waddington, $185,600 to the Madrid-Waddington Central School District, $179,200 to the town of Louisville, $133,200 to the Massena Central School District and $80,133 and $22,000 to the villages of Waddington and Massena, respectively.
The funding stems from the 2003 relicensing agreement, which allowed NYPAs St. Lawrence-FDR Power project in Massena to continue operating for another 50 years; the payments go to the communities most affected by the 1950s construction of the dam.
Massena town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray wondered if the area could receive more money over, for example, 20 years, and then get none toward the end of the relicensing agreement. The money could be used for a collective economic development project, like further enhancing public access to the St. Lawrence River to promote tourism. Mr. Gray did not have specific ideas for projects yet.
The 2003 agreement is approaching its 10-year anniversary, at which time officials will revisit the NYPA settlement. Within the agreement was a provision: NYPA and the host communities every decade could review and discuss issues not anticipated in 2003, and accelerating payments may be one topic broached.
If we have a major project that needs funding and we can go to NYPA to say give us some of our money upfront, that would make sense, Mr. Gray said.
Mr. Gray recognized the acceleration as taking away from future funding, but figured that money would be worth far less because of inflation by the end years of the relicensing agreement anyway.
Thats the choice we have to make, Mr. Gray said. If we can invest the money so it turns over in the local economy and creates jobs and revenue, wouldnt that be a bigger advantage?
The Local Government Task Force agreed to the 50-year payment schedule when the 2003 agreement was finalized, according to NYPA spokesman Paul A. DiMichele.
If they would like to reconsider the timing of the payments, we would be open to discuss that with them, Mr. DiMichele said in an email.
Accelerating NYPA payments has worked well 300 miles west in Buffalo, according to Rep. Brian Higgins, who represents part of the city.
Buffalo is near NYPAs other major hydro dam, the Niagara Power Project. Mr. Higgins was instrumental in crafting Niagaras agreement, which was finalized a couple of years after St. Lawrence-FDRs.
The agreement originally set aside $3.5 million annually for redeveloping Buffalos waterfront. Much like Massena, Buffalo has declined from its 20th century industrial heyday. Much of the waterfront land needed for the citys once-bustling seaport and industries sat unused for years.
In 2010, officials there amended the relicensing agreement. Instead of $3.5 million over 50 years, Buffalo began receiving more than $8 million annually over 20, with nothing thereafter. The acceleration has made all the difference, Mr. Higgins said.
We could drag this out over 50 years or accelerate it and develop a waterfront that will define Buffalo for the next 50 years, Mr. Higgins said. We needed this to leverage exactly what is happening today.
Thats a risk worth taking, he said.
In 2012, the citys waterfront, where the Niagara and Buffalo rivers meet Lake Erie, hosted 425 different events attracting approximately 700,000 people from Western New York and Southern Ontario, Mr. Higgins said.
The strategy we implemented is paying off, he said. Weve seen nothing but benefits around us.
The key to accelerating, Mr. Higgins said, is to have defined projects that would benefit from such a payment plan. He advised against receiving extra money upfront to plug holes in budgets and alleviate tax increases.
Louisville, for example, uses its $179,200 annual allocation to pay off its highway garage and town hall. Of Massenas $284,000 allocation, $85,000 goes toward paying off the Massena Community Center and the rest is used in the general fund. Waddingtons $160,000 payment offsets property taxes and Highway Department costs, town Supervisor Mark Scott said.
Mr. Scott agreed that any payment acceleration would have to be invested in long-term development projects to make it worthwhile.
We need to make sure that the projects we fund would generate more revenue than if we continue the normal schedule of payments, Mr. Scott said.
Louisville Supervisor Larry R. Legault saw pros and cons to such an idea. He wondered whether the handful of entities receiving money would be willing to give up future funding to collectively invest it in developing the areas riverfront.
Mr. Scott and others, like Massena village Mayor James F. Hidy, would prefer to see a net gain of NYPA funds, and not just a redistribution of payments.
Some north country officials have long contended that the 2003 relicensing agreement pales in comparison to the agreement Niagara received and is unfair.
Lets talk about making the fund larger and adding additional payments, Mr. Scott said. Its clear per megawatt produced that our deal was not as good as Western New Yorks.
Mr. Gray agreed the relicensing was not as good a deal as we should have gotten, but that the focus should now be on what localities can do to maximize it. Accelerating payments is one option.