Sun Tax Causes Stir in Evans

If you recall, the EvangolaDailyPost recently ran an article regarding the Town getting on board with offering permits via RESOLUTION 2016 #532.  On Wednesday, December 21, 2016, our Town Board adopted  the Standardized Residential Solar Permit Process for the Town of Evans.  The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) is offering financial incentives to municipalities that adopt a uniform New York State solar permit process.

So we are on board with getting financial incentives if we opt to go solar. HOWEVER, there’s currently a petition going around the Town of Evans to stop what’s called the “Sun Tax” to be imposed on residents who actually want to install a solar power system on their home or property.

Looking at this from the homeowner’s point of view, it seems completely out of line – especially since the Evans taxpayer is already overburdened due to the failure of previous administrations to raise local taxes and their mismanagement of town funds for the past several years.

At a recent town board meeting on January 11, the Town of Evans announced it is looking to opt-out of a 40-year-old state law that provides businesses and homeowners a tax exemption for their use of solar or wind energy. Doesn’t sound fair, right? But for the Town of Evans especially, it may be a first step in the right direction.

According to our Town Supervisor, Mary Hosler, the town is looking to do this because they have received offers from over half dozen solar companies wanting to set up large solar farms within the town limits. Right now, any future solar farms would be untaxed by the town. That, of course, would not help our already financially over-extended budget.

“Our board is for clean renewable energy, but we have to understand first where we need it, where we want it and what the residents are really looking for,” said Supervisor Hosler.

Last Wednesday night, a number of residents spoke against opting out of the State Law, fearing the opt-out would mean additional taxes for anyone looking to use renewable energy at their home. As it stands now – if the opt-out goes through, that may very well be the case. So basically, it would be optimal to shield the tax-paying home and small business owners against the so-called Sun Tax. The challenge is those large solar companies who are looking to establish solar farms here and how to tax them fairly so that the Town of Evans also sees a benefit in the form of much-needed tax revenue. Therefore, some pertinent questions come to mind. What are these large solar companies planning to do with the solar energy they generate? Sell it to the Evans residents? Sell it back to the power company (like National Grid) and make a profit? Would it be fair that they get to run their business untaxed within the borders of Evans, while the rest of the residents pay property taxes AND taxes on their current energy bills? How can those residents and local small businesses who opt to install solar energy systems be shielded from being taxed additionally?

These questions and others need to be addressed. There will be another public hearing about the tax exemption opt-out next Wednesday, 1/18/2017 at 7pm at the Evans Town Hall.  Come to the meeting with your questions and suggestions, as this affects every home and business owner in our town.