Comptroller urges IDA accountability steps

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli called Wednesday for new accountability measures for industrial

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli called Wednesday for new accountability measures for industrial development agencies, and a small IDA in northern Saratoga County came under particular scrutiny.

The report “Performance of Industrial Development Agencies” looked at 116 local IDAs around the state from several perspectives, including the annual cost per job created in 2006.

The IDA in the town of Corinth had two projects that year that granted $1.7 million in tax exemptions for the creation of 15 jobs, which works out to $121,818 per job, according to DiNapoli’s analysis. That was singled out as by far the highest per job cost in the state.

Corinth Town Supervisor Richard Lucia, who is chairman of the town IDA, said the comptroller is referring to the IDA’s assistance to Indeck Energy Services, a gas-fired co-generation power plant at the former International Paper mill site, and a project he supported.

“It’s been a blessing for us,” Lucia said.

Indeck initially got the IDA aid when it came in in 1994, selling steam to the International Paper plant and enough electricity to supply 100,000 people.

It isn’t unusual for IDAs to assist independent power plants, which require a large capital investment in electricity-production equipment but create relatively few jobs. The Saratoga County IDA has assisted the restoration of several hydroelectric projects over the years.

James Carminucci of Saratoga Springs, a municipal bond counsel whose clients include the Corinth and Saratoga County IDAs, said the original purpose of aiding Indeck was to preserve the 600 jobs at International Paper, even though that mill eventually closed. The 2006 project that DiNapoli’s analysis scrutinized was only the addition of a water distillation facility, so the power plant could keep its co-generation status despite the mill’s closing, he said.

The original protection of the paper mill jobs didn’t appear to be factored into DiNapoli’s analysis, Carminucci said.

“You really have to take a careful look at what the project is and what are its intentions,” Carminucci said of the comptroller’s statistical comparisons.

While citing Corinth as the highest per job exemption package in the state, DiNapoli did not specifically criticize the Corinth IDA’s decision to finance Indeck.

In his report, DiNapoli said some IDAs aren’t submitting adequate financial reports, and said his office should have the authority to suspend the powers of IDAs that don’t submit required information annually on jobs created or retained.

According to the report, IDAs gave tax breaks totaling $456 million in 2006, but 27 percent of those projects failed to provide requested data on project costs, and 9 percent didn’t provide jobs information.

An IDA reform law that took effect in 2006 tightened financial reporting requirements. Starting this year, DiNapoli said, his office will only accept audited annual financial statements for those reports.

IDAs are independent public authorities that can offer real property tax breaks, exemptions from some state taxes and low-bond interest rates to attract, retain or expand businesses in their jurisdictions.

Advocates seeking to reform IDAs lauded the report.

“Comptroller DiNapoli’s independent analysis of the state’s IDAs demonstrates that many IDAs are failing to report on their job-creation results,” said Carrie Brunk, executive director of New York Jobs with Justice.

A look at IDA costs per job created in 2006, according to state the report:

*  Albany County: $672 per job

*  Schenectady County: $466

*  Montgomery County: $2,128

*  Fulton County: $1,028

*  Saratoga County IDA: $2,905

*  State average (excluding NYC): $4,195

Categories: Schenectady County

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