Albany

Comptroller: Capital Region IDA tax breaks among largest in state

AP Photo/Seth WenigState Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks during the New York state Democratic Convention in New York on Feb. 17.
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AP Photo/Seth Wenig

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks during the New York state Democratic Convention in New York on Feb. 17.

ALBANY — Capital Region industrial development agencies were among the state’s most generous with tax exemptions, according to the state Comptroller’s Office.

The comptroller’s annual IDA report also found that the Capital Region IDAs were some of the most frugal on their own operations, with among the lowest ratios of expenses per project.

“This report gives taxpayers a clear look at the financial and project data as reported by IDAs for their communities,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said in a message accompanying the report, which covers the 2020 fiscal year.

“IDAs can play an important role in helping local economies and businesses expand and recover after the pandemic. The tax breaks they provide do impact local taxes and should be looked at closely. Publishing this information, including IDA costs, increases their transparency and accountability to taxpayers.”

The $103.4 million in net tax exemptions granted by Capital Region IDAs in 2020 were the most per-capita among the state’s 10 regions, about $93 per resident, and the second-most-expensive per job created, at $8,103.

The 108 IDAs statewide were assisting a total of 4,262 active projects in 2020, led by a $2.4 billion office tower project in Manhattan.

The largest IDA-assisted project in the Mohawk Valley, and second-largest in the state, was a $1 billion computer chip factory in the Mohawk Valley town of Marcy, outside Utica.

The Pattersonville Solar project ($36.5 million), assisted by the Schenectady County IDA, was the largest in the Capital Region.

The annual reports are a snapshot in time, and this one happened to catch the Schenectady County IDA at an unflattering moment.

One of the big projects in its portfolio, the Union Pacific Cold Connect fresh produce terminal in Rotterdam, went belly up  in 2020 when COVID shut down the restaurants its business model relied on. Nearly 500 jobs were eliminated, contributing to the Schenectady County IDA showing a net loss of 88 jobs overall for the 22 projects from which it had projected 803 new jobs and to which it had granted over $2 million in net tax exemptions.

Economic development efforts in Schenectady County are highly concentrated after years of consolidation designed to prevent a collection of local agencies working at cross-purposes within the county.

The city and county IDAs are both administered by the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority and Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen is also county commissioner of economic development and planning.

Gillen previously has said Cold Connect, originally Railex, was a good business that met with an unforeseeable obstacle in COVID.

He said Monday that the county IDA came off well otherwise in the comptroller’s report. Its $139,000 in operating expenses that year works out to $6,335 each for the 22 projects and compared with a median of $399,000 for IDAs statewide, or $16,865 per project.

It granted $10.64 million in total property tax exemptions, negotiated $8.46 million in payments in lieu of taxes for a net exemption of $2.18 million. In return, the 22 projects invested $204.5 million locally, Gillen said.

Gillen also mentioned that after a two-year team effort to fill the 240,000 square feet vacated by Cold Connect in the Rotterdam Industrial Park, a new tenant has been signed for the space. He can’t disclose its identity yet, but said it’s in the food and beverage sector and needs the cold storage capabilities there.

The new tenant will not immediately need the rail siding Railex and Cold Connect used to unload fruit and vegetables grown on the West Coast, he added.

DiNapoli’s report said statewide, the 4,262 projects assisted by IDAs had a combined value of $114 billion, received $1.75 billion in tax exemptions and paid $782 million in lieu of taxes for a total of $966 million in net tax exemptions.

The projects were expected to result in a gain of 225,227 jobs but as of the period examined had a net gain of only 167,984 jobs, for a net tax exemption of $5,752 per job gained.

Continuing a longer-term trend, IDA-supported projects in 2020 were fewer in number but greater in value than in 2019.

Here are some local numbers:

CAPITAL REGION

Regionwide: 21 IDAs; 396 projects worth $13.3 billion; net tax exemption value $103.4 million; 12,737 new jobs projected; estimated 12,759 net job gain; $8,103 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Clifton Park IDA: 10 projects worth $47 million; net tax exemption value $507,352 combined; 266 new jobs projected; estimated 237 net job gain; $2,140 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Colonie IDA: Eight projects worth $169.1 million; net tax exemption value $1.8 million combined; 435 new jobs projected; estimated 224 net job gain; $7,939 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Saratoga County IDA: 30 projects worth $7 billion; net tax exemption value $1.1 million combined; 2,377 new jobs projected; estimated 3,592 net job gain; $305 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Schenectady City IDA: 31 projects worth $522.6 million; net tax exemption value $3.7 million combined; 1,680 new jobs projected; estimated 1,276 net job gain; $2,918 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Schenectady County IDA: 22 projects worth $204.5 million; net tax exemption value $2.2 million combined; 803 new jobs projected; estimated 88 net job decrease.

MOHAWK VALLEY 

Regionwide: Nine IDAs; 176 projects worth $2.91 billion; net tax exemption value $25.6 million combined; 4,067 new jobs projected; estimated 3,851 net job gain; $6,656 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Amsterdam IDA: Nine projects worth $37.1 million; net tax exemption value $218,034 combined; 131 new jobs projected; estimated 81 net job gain; $2,692 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Fulton County IDA: Four projects worth $48.1 million; net tax exemption value $43,076 combined; 92 new jobs projected; estimated 44 net job gain; $990 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Montgomery County IDA: 10 projects worth $438.5 million; net tax exemption value $2.13 million combined; 683 new jobs projected; estimated 1,617 net job gain; $1,319 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Schoharie County IDA: Six projects worth $69.6 million; net tax exemption value $3.35 million combined; 81 new jobs projected; estimated 248 net job gain; $13,476 in tax exemptions per job gained.

Categories: Business, Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, Saratoga County, Schenectady, Schenectady County

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