A bill sponsored by State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle and Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. just might change the world. Okay, so the measure to give local governments and school districts the ability to issue their own tax breaks for “green” buildings and retrofits cannot by itself stem global warming or slow the rate of sea level rise, but it would encourage individuals do their part.
The legislation was approved without a single no vote by both the Assembly and Senate, and with good reason. Starting next year, it would allow the state’s municipal boards to offer property tax exemptions for work that meets the standards set by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design organization. For the first three years, the bill would keep any increased assessment from being reflected on a property owner’s tax bill. For the highest-rated, or “platinum” LEED-certified projects, assessments would not jump until year seven.
Implementation, of course, falls to local governments, as it does with so many of Albany’s bright ideas. Town, village, and school boards must adopt the program. Then, local assessors would review the construction and somehow remember to add the increased assessments once the exemptions timed out. It is potentially a hassle, but well worth it.
What is revolutionary about the legislation is that it empowers school districts, whose taxes make up the greatest share of most property tax bills, to promote green building — no more waiting around for town officials to find the motivation. At the same time, the cost in terms of lost taxes is negligible, as present assessments remain in place; only the added value of the new construction or retrofit would be exempted.
The bill awaits Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s signature. It will then be up to local governments to take advantage of it. We hope they do so as soon as possible.