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Sunoco, El Paso Settlements Going to State for Approval This Week

The property tax disputes over the value of the Eagle Point refinery complex could be one step closer to resolution later this week.

After two attempts to get $33 million in tax refunding bonds considered by the state went unheard, West Deptford officials are hoping the proverbial third time is the charm.

The state Local Finance Board (LFB) is set to consider the bonds, which would pay out settlements to Sunoco and Coastal/El Paso on more than two decades’ worth of disputed property taxes at the , as part of its June meeting on Wednesday.

The official consideration comes after two months of fits and starts—, only to get pulled ahead of a judge’s call on an , and .

It also comes as a potential trial looms, as Mayor Ray Chintall cautioned after making the announcement Thursday night.

Attorneys for both the township and Sunoco met with tax court Judge Patrick DeAlmeida at the beginning of the month, when the trial was slated to begin, to stave off any official action until the LFB moves on the bonds and the township either approves or shoots down the bond refunding ordinance on a final vote.

“The judge has not formally adjourned the case,” Chintall said. “He is carrying this case day-to-day.”

But it appears July 5 is the drop-dead date—if the LFB grants approval, that would be the first opportunity for the township committee to consider the second reading of the bond ordinance.

And unlike the first round back in April, the committee won’t be able to push the deal through on a simple majority—the three Republicans who voted to approve the deals will have to convince one of the Democrats on the committee to switch from a no vote, as the bond ordinance requires a supermajority for final passage.

Otherwise, it seems at least the Sunoco deal, if not both settlements, will fall apart, and Chintall said there’s only one option from there.

“(DeAlmeida) is going to take us right to court,” he said.

The Republicans have faced sharp criticism from the Democrats on the settlements since , and they got more of that from a partisan crowd at the township committee meeting.

William Gigliotti, a former refinery worker who was a candidate to replace former Mayor Anna Docimo, pressed the Republicans on the value of the plant, noting Sunoco had built new units in the refinery, and said more should be done to keep the oil giant accountable.

“The company is greedy,” he said.

Chintall deflected that, bringing up an argument the Republicans have made repeatedly—that the courts will likely peg the value of the refinery to its selling price, which was $111 million back in 2004.

“I hear you, but when that goes into court, that judge isn’t looking at $5 gas—he’s looking at the law,” Chintall said.

The committee also took questions from James Mehaffey, the former police chief and current vice president of the school board, as to whether the township committee planned to sit down with the schools about the settlement’s effects.

The school district, like the township, had , largely on the drop in property values around town, and could lose even more next year, given the settlement drops the refinery’s assessment from $153 million down to $100 million.

Ken June 13, 2012 at 01:19 PM
So Mr. Kraus it would have been better to have settled say 15 years ago at the height of the economy and paid the oil companies 85 mil? of course we would have saved that 3mil or so as quoted by Ray on the attorney fees since then. or maybe waiting saved the twp. some money. maybe it wasn't kicking the can down the road, maybe it was doing whats best for the twp. not saying now is not the time to settle, saying maybe there's more to it then bashing dems and republicans.
carolyn johnston June 13, 2012 at 03:14 PM
what are we going to do wait for the carlyle group to come in and down the road go thru the same legal battle over the same thing. get it over now so we don't have to wait for another loop hole to raise our taxes. being a disgruntled democrat i'm embarrassed to associate myself with the party that I loved so much for the past 12 years. it's sad to see some of my fellow democrats overshadowing the fact that this deal is the best we all gonna get whether your dems or rep. there is some things that the current administration does that I don't like but as far as unity on this committee there will never be. SETTLE SETTLE SETTLE MOVE ON YOU GOT BIGGER FISH TO FRY.
Ernest Kraus June 13, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Ken; So what else is there? When is the time to settle? This is the first time in this entire drawn out battle that elected township officials sat down with Sunoco. Previously it was the lawyers and the billing clock was running. The best solution would have been for the administration to have sat down 15 years ago with Sunoco and to have had assessments done by those familiar with that type of industry. Explain to me how an assessor that does houses and strip malls is qualified to assess a value of a refinery.
Gloucester Guy June 13, 2012 at 11:20 PM
There you go again Ernest spewing out nonsense and generalities with no facts to backup. It is positively not the first time that elected officials negotiated with Sunoco so why dont you stop with your lies.
THOROFARE TOOTSIE June 14, 2012 at 12:11 AM
ARE WE FORGETTING COASTAL.DID WEST DEPTFORD WIN THAT WAR. HOW ABOUT CITGO,WHO BENEFITED ON THAT ONE. SO FAR REFINERIES 2 WEST DEPTFORD 0 SETTLE NOW OR MORE PEOPLE WILL BE MOVING OUT OF TOWN.

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