The tax re-assessment lawsuits by the Long Island Power Authority ("LIPA") threaten to bankrupt Huntington, Northport, and the Northport School District. But incumbent Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone (D-Babylon) has been "doing nothing" to protect local residents in those communities, according to challenger, Suffolk County Comptroller John Kennedy (R-Smithtown).
LIPA has filed suit to reassess the property taxes on its Northport power plant, that provides electricity for 1.1 million residents. The power plant is assessed at $3.4 billion and pays an annual property tax of $84 million. Those property taxes are the largest single tax payment in Huntington and are about 35% of the Northport-East Northport School District annual budget. If LIPA gets its way and cuts its property tax payment by 90%, then all other residents would see huge - 35% plus - property tax increases to make up the difference.
In addition, LIPA is seeking a "refund" of its claimed past "overpayments," amounting to $650 million. That sum would bankrupt the Town of Huntington, the Village of Northport, and the Northport-East Northport School District.
The Town of Huntington has been fighting LIPA, filing counter-lawsuits before the Supreme Court. Huntington Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) has been especially active opposing LIPA. Other officials, such as NYS Senator Jim Gaughran (D-Huntington) and NYS Assembyman Andrew Raia (R-Northport) have bi-partisan state legislation pending to stop LIPA's attempt. Bellone, however, has been notably absent.
"I will take action immediately" stated Kennedy. "The Governor controls the LIPA Board. Bellone brags about
being close to the Governor, but he has done nothing" to protect local residents.
"A 35% tax increase would devastate people in this community," stated one Northport resident. "Where is Steve Bellone - he's hiding somewhere. Bellone doesn't care about us - the middle class homeowners of Huntington and Northport."
LIPA is a government agency, created in 1985 to take over electricity service to Long Island. It has a nine-member Board, five of whom are appointed by the Governor. The current LIPA Chairman is Ralph Suozzi - the former Mayor of Glen Cove and first cousin of US Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove). LIPA Chair Suozzi refused to return calls to comment on this issue.
Earlier this year, Bellone appointed his Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman - the former Supervisor of North Hempstead - to "mediate" between LIPA and Huntington. But LIPA has refused to accept "mediation." Bellone has otherwise refused to take a position.
"I call on LIPA to come to the table, work with our local elected officials to come to a reasonable agreement that will be fair and protects our homeowners and residents," added Kennedy. "When elected, I will get LIPA's back taxes off the table... and push forward for our residents."