'Tonawanda Tomorrow' Rebounding from Huntley Plant Closure

TONAWANDA, N.Y. -- Town of Tonawanda and Ken-Ton School District residents will be eligible for further relief following last year's closure of the Huntley Power Plant, which was the town's largest taxpayer.

The school district was awarded $2.3 million last November as part of the five-year, $30 million statewide Electric Generation Facility Cessation Mitigation Program.

Kenmore Teachers Association President Peter Stuhlmiller says that money went a long way in helping to replace a $3 million annual loss in school revenue.

"What's particularly acute for school districts is because there's that tax cap, there's no way that school districts can make up that lost revenue by raising taxes. They have to make up the difference by cutting programs and laying people off," Stuhlmiller said.

In a joint release Tuesday, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger and Senator Chris Jacobs said the five-year mitigation deal will be replaced by a new seven-year, $45 million deal.

Under the restructuring, the school district is slated to receive an additional $2.7 million, the town of Tonawanda will receive $1.8 million more and Erie County will receive an additional $1 million.

Western New York Labor Federation AFL-CIO President Richard Lipsitz says this latest round of funding is great, but he and other community members are preparing for when that money runs out.

In November of 2015, the Western New York Labor Federation AFL-CIO, Kenmore Teacher's Association and Clean Air Coalition helped lead an economic brainstorming session.

That has led to a community partnership called Tonawanda Tomorrow.

"We think it's going to provide, again, companies and people who want to move to Tonawanda lots of incentives for doing so," Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz says those incentives don't necessarily include giving subsidies to companies, but wouldn't rule them out altogether.

The University at Buffalo Regional Institute has jumped in on the planning, helping the town of Tonawanda and participating groups form a concrete plan to attract businesses.

"Really, the end deliverable here is an economic development plan that the town, as well as other public-private and non-profit partners can use as a decision making tool as well as a resource for the types of investments to focus on," said Bart Roberts, UB Regional Institute research assistant professor.

The first draft of that plan will come next month, with the full plan expected by late June.

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