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F-M board action gives district voice in property tax exemption discussions

The Fayetteville-Manlius School District has taken action to ensure it has a voice in discussions about certain property tax exemptions. 

The F-M Board of Education passed a resolution Aug. 12 opting the district out of Real Property Tax Law 487, which provides property tax exemptions for a period of 15 years for certain solar, wind or farm waste energy systems. 

The board may choose to opt back in and grant an exemption at any time, said William Furlong, F-M’s assistant superintendent for business services. But by opting out, the district will now be included in any discussions between a property owner and their respective municipality on the terms of an agreement that is struck regarding the exemption, Furlong said. 

By not opting out, property tax exemptions could be struck—and have been in the past— between a property owner and a municipality without the district’s input or knowledge.

“This action does not mean that as a district we are against property owners seeking green energy sources. In fact, we have taken on a number of alternative energy solutions, such as solar panel installations at Wellwood Middle School and F-M High School,” Furlong said. “What this action does mean is that we want to have a seat at the table and be part of the discussions when exemptions are decided upon.” 

When a property tax exemption is granted, the district is giving up revenue, and the tax burden shifts to other property owners within the district. Occasionally, an exemption is granted on condition of a payment in lieu of taxes agreement, or PILOT, which sets forth an annual payment schedule designed to compensate for some of the property tax revenue a school district or municipality would lose due to the tax exempt status. 

A majority of the F-M school district’s annual operating budget is supported by property taxes. For the current 2019-20 school year, the property tax levy funds 74% of the overall budget approved by voters in May. State aid accounts for 23% of the approved budget, and other revenue, including county sales tax and interest income, closes the gap. PILOT agreements would be included in that other revenue stream.