Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs IDA OKs break on taxes for theater

Several tax exemptions to help a proposed downtown movie theater complex go forward were approved Mo

Several tax exemptions to help a proposed downtown movie theater complex go forward were approved Monday by the Saratoga County Industrial Development Agency.

The agreement, which will save developer Sonny Bonacio about $850,000 on an $18 million project, makes the theater fully tax exempt for five years, then phases in its full tax burden over the next five years.

The project, which will be in the empty former Price Chopper building on Railroad Place, will also receive exemptions from sales tax on theater building materials, and from the mortgage recording tax.

The IDA has the power to grant such tax breaks to projects that create jobs and promote economic development.

“This project is unique, and certainly does help tourism and help the city of Saratoga and indeed the entire county,” said IDA board member Arthur Johnson, the Wilton town supervisor.

The 11-screen theater complex is expected to be open by next summer. The plans received approval from the city Planning Board last week, but still must get approval from the city’s Design Review Commission.

The plans have received bipartisan support from the City Council.

Because of the cost of redeveloping an old downtown site, Bonacio’s accountant and his attorney, Matthew Jones of Saratoga Springs, have said the project won’t happen without the IDA tax-exemption benefits.

“I agree that the project is not financeable in absence of the tax abatement relief sought,” Accounts Commissioner John P. Franck, a certified public accountant, wrote in a letter the IDA board received Monday.

Franck, Mayor Scott Johnson and Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan all said by letter that the movie theater would be crucial to increasing the vitality of the downtown area.

There is no downtown movie theater now. The closest cinemas are at the Wilton Mall.

The theater complex would be part of a three-story office building to be built around the theater. The various tax exemptions will not apply to the office portion of the project.

The board also approved an agreement that would allow the IDA to serve at some point in the future as a conduit for GlobalFoundries to finance additional infrastructure for the Luther Forest Technology Campus.

The computer chip giant, which has built what will be a $6.9 billion chip fabrication plant at the campus employing 1,800, says another water line, gas line and additional roads will eventually be needed, and it isn’t clear how they will be paid for.

The agreement would allow GlobalFoundries to use the IDA for financing, a mechanism that could potentially allow the state to reimburse GlobalFoundries.

But Kevin McAuliffe of Syracuse, a lawyer for GlobalFoundries, said the idea “is not definite. It is a backup alternative.”

Most of the initial infrastructure for the Luther Forest campus was paid for by state member item grants arranged by then-Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno.

But Bruno is no longer in office, and member items have been eliminated from recent state budgets as a reform measure and because of the state’s financial crisis.

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