Tonawanda News — A statewide review of activity tied to industrial development agencies shows Niagara County near the top in terms of total tax exemptions offered as part of assistance packages for development projects.
The Authorities Budget Office of the state of New York found that between 2008 and 2011, the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency ranked second in the state, outside New York City, with exemptions totaling $147.48 million.
The analysis concluded that Niagara’s total was exceeded only by the Town of Hempstead, which the report said provided a total of $174 million in tax exemptions during the period in question.
Statewide, the analysis showed that IDA projects realized more than $5.6 billion in total financial assistance from 2008 through 2011, of which $3 billion went to projects outside New York City.
When adjusted for payments made by projects in lieu of taxes, or PILOT agreements, the net value of the exemptions totaled nearly $2.2 billion, including $1.6 billion outside New York City.
Net exemptions from potential school taxes totaled $757 million during and IDA-assisted projects were exempt from paying $276 million in state sales taxes and $262 million in local sales taxes during the four-year period.
All of the information gathered for the report was compiled using data self-reported by the IDAs through the Public Authorities Reporting Information System.
“Economic development officials see these tax exemptions as effective and essential for spurring economic development,” Authorities Budget Office Director David Kidera said in a statement issued following the release of his office’s report. “They view any restriction on the availability of financial assistance options as detrimental to job creation and economic development. At the same time, local governments and the state, which are asked to forego potential revenue, and taxpayers, who often bear the burden of these tax exemptions, expect that assisted projects deliver the new jobs and sustained economic benefits they promise. While we have improved the accountability and transparency of IDAs, we have not focused on whether this financial assistance equation is working for every community. Hopefully, this data release starts the discussion and helps public officials and taxpayers objectively draw their own conclusions.”