District/OCIDA suit tossed out of court for lack of standing

The Rome school district’s legal action against the county Industrial Development Agency and the Griffiss Utility Services Corp. over a new 25-year tax-free agreement has been dismissed in state Supreme Court.

In a decision Tuesday, Supreme Court Justice Bernadette T. Clark granted IDA and GUSC motions to dismiss the case by the district and the school board, based on their "lack of standing" for the Article 78 proceeding.

The district and board "are certainly not taxpayers, and have not demonstrated how they are aggrieved, even if they are deprived of tax revenue. Moreover, it is the Rome area taxpayers that may be aggrieved in that they may have to absorb the additional tax burden or suffer a reduction in services provided by the school district," said Clark.

In addition, Clark said "harm alleged" by the district and board "is insufficient and unsubstantiated." The "assertion that they will not be able to increase their tax levy limit is mere speculation," she said.

Noting a 60 percent voter approval could enable a tax levy limit in a proposed budget to exceed a "formula amount," she said "there is no evidence...that the petitioners have been or will be unable to pass a budget."

The legal action opposed IDA approval of a 25-year tax-free agreement for GUSC following a prior 10-year tax-free break. The district estimated it would lose about $11 million over 25 years in payments-in-lieu-of taxes, based on an upcoming $18 million GUSC expansion that would increase its assessed value.

GUSC provides energy for employer sites at Griffiss park, and the IDA says the new tax-free agreement will help stabilize costs for park tenants.

District representatives had not yet seen Clark’s decision. School board President Patricia Riedel said the board previously discussed a possible appeal if the case were turned down.

IDA Chairman David C. Grow was pleased with the ruling; the IDA "feels as an agency that it makes decisions which enhance" pursuit of economic development. The IDA is disappointed "we had to spend money...to litigate" the case, he said, estimating it spent about $10,000 toward an insurance deductible.