By Ashley M. Casey
The state Supreme Court Appellate Division has ruled in favor of the city of Fulton’s petition to annex the Granby wastewater treatment plant.
The decision was announced May 9 and the annexation was made official May 15.
Three appellate judges upheld state Supreme Court Justice James McCarthy’s May 2013 ruling that the annexation is “in the public interest.”
In a special meeting May 13, the Fulton Common Council declined to advertise for a public hearing and passed a local law for the annexation.
Mayor Ronald Woodward Sr. said the city was able to waive the public hearing because it had held hearings when the petition for annexation was filed in 2012 and when the city sought SEQRA (environmental) approval.
“We had two public hearings on it and they were both televised for those that didn’t come,” Woodward said.
The town of Granby is less than pleased with the May 9 ruling. The town had appealed McCarthy’s initial ruling.
Although it is paid up for 2014 and 2015, the city of Fulton is released from paying $116,383.46 in town, town highway, fire district and school district taxes after 2015.
Town Supervisor Ed Williamson said Granby will lose out on $9,678.89 in tax revenue in 2016.
“If it didn’t happen, it would have been better for Granby. There’s nothing much we can do about it,” Williamson said.
“It’s always difficult to find money that you lose. When we make up our new budget for (2016) we’ll have to find a way to make up that money.”
Williamson said most of the city’s $116,838.46 tax savings would have gone toward the Fulton City School District and Oswego County real property taxes.
“Granby’s amount of loss is minuscule compared to the school and the county,” he said.
Kathy Nichols, director of finance for Fulton schools, confirmed the treatment plant property “will no longer be taxable for school tax purposes.”
The plant, which is operated by the city of Fulton, was taxable as part of the town of Granby, but now that it belongs to the city, it cannot be taxed.
Nichols said the city paid $105,684 in school taxes for the 2013-14 school year. With the annexation, the city’s share will be spread out among the rest of the school district’s tax base.
“The people in Granby are the ones who are really going to feel this,” Nichols said.
Woodward said the coming tax relief is necessary for the city’s economic recovery. Fulton pursued the annexation to save tax dollars and keep water prices down for new businesses.
“Waste treatment is required under the health laws,” he said. “It’s like putting sales tax on a heart transplant.”
Williamson said neither the town of Granby nor the city of Fulton were notified of the ruling until Monday, May 12. Granby does not plan to appeal the decision further.
“I understand it was up on the (New York state Unified Court System) website Saturday and Sunday,” Williamson said. He said that on May 12 the town received a letter dated May 9 from the city’s attorneys, Bond, Schoeneck and King, notifying them of the ruling.
As for Fulton, Woodward said he is glad to put the annexation issue behind him.
“With the hard times, with the economy the way it is — you need to be able to manage costs so you can get businesses and not drive them away,” Woodward said.