Action would reject tax break for solar, wind

The Town of Putnam Valley is proposing to opt out of a state law that grants a 15-year tax break on increases in a property’s assessed value attributed to the installment of a green-energy system powered by solar, wind or farm waste.

“The assessed value of your property does not increase nor decrease based on solar panels,” asserted Supervisor Jacqueline Annabi at the Jan. 25 meeting of the Town Board. “In other words, you’re not being taxed for the solar panels as it stands.”

Opting out of the law is allowed as long as a municipality holds a public hearing. The Town Board passed resolutions in 2016 (after a parcel was sold to build a solar farm) and 2020 but didn’t hold the required hearings.

If the town opts out, it would be the second municipality in Putnam County to do so: Patterson opted out in 1991. In Dutchess County, the towns of Wappinger and Taconic Hills opted out in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

The proposed Putnam Valley resolution states that opting out would “protect the town’s tax base.”

“There is a solar-equipment tax credit available to anybody [in New York state] with a solar panel,” said Annabi, adding that Putnam Valley provides other incentives for solar-panel permits. “We try very hard to stay green, but we don’t want a commercial base to come in and tear up our lands [for clean-energy projects], not be invested in our community and then not be taxed on it.”

During the hearing, several residents spoke against the proposed resolution.

“While the original intent in 2016 may have been to capture revenue from commercially oriented solar and wind farms, the removal of this tax exemption would necessarily impact homeowners, as well,” said Sarah Bartlett. “In a town with a limited commercial presence, that’s where its primary impact would be felt.”

She noted that the board could still collect revenue from solar and wind farms while allowing homeowners to keep the exemption by arranging payments-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreements on commercial projects.

Another resident, Anton Ioukhnovets, said that while his recent transition to solar power wasn’t as cheap or as easy as he had hoped, it was worth it.

Removing the property-tax exemption “is a bit shortsighted, at least as far as private owners go,” he said. “The transition to renewable energy has finally gone mainstream, the momentum is building and NYSEG [New York State Electric & Gas] rates doubled in the last year. Giving an extra incentive for the people to be energy-independent and move collectively toward the green-energy future is the right thing to do.”

Comments on the proposal will be accepted until 4 p.m. on Feb. 15. The supervisor’s email is [email protected].

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Skidmore College graduate has reported for The Current since 2014 and writes the "Out There" column. Location: Beacon. Languages: English. Areas of Expertise: Environment, outdoors