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Report details job creation costs, tax exemptions given by IDAs

Report details job creation costs, tax exemptions given by IDAs

The Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency had the 10th lowest cost per job among industri

The Schenectady County Industrial Development Agency had the 10th lowest cost per job among industrial development agencies in the state, according to a report issued by state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.

The county IDA, one of three IDAs in Schenectady County, had a cost per job of $669 as of 2008, the most recent data available. The state median among IDAs outside of New York City was $1,373 per job.

The Rotterdam IDA’s cost per job was $414 and the city of Schenectady’s was $2,424. The cost per job is calculated by dividing the net job change by the net tax exemptions the IDA awarded to businesses.

The data shows the county IDA awarded $1.4 million in net tax exemptions for 26 projects worth $234 million in 2008. The Rotterdam IDA awarded $650,670 on eight projects worth $45 million; and the city IDA awarded $1.5 million on 37 projects worth $234 million.

The data shows the county IDA created an estimated 2,120 jobs and retained an additional 5,879 jobs as of 2008. The Rotterdam IDA created an estimated 1,573 jobs and retained 194; and the city IDA created an estimated 608 jobs and retained 1,406.

Elsewhere in the Capital Region, the city of Albany IDA created 3,644 jobs at a cost of $690 per job on $1.1 billion in projects. The Fulton County IDA created 195 jobs at a cost of $1,666 per job on $21 million in projects. The Fulton County IDA was almost 10 times more likely to offer tax exemptions to a project rather than a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreement, or PILOT.

The Montgomery County IDA created 1,582 jobs at a cost of $1,426 per job on $316 million worth of projects. This IDA was four times more likely to offer tax exemptions than PILOTS to projects.

The Schenectady County IDA was 1.5 times more likely to offer tax exemptions than PILOTS, according to the comptroller’s data.

Schenectady County IDA Vice Chairman Gary Hughes said the comptroller’s report “underscores what we have been saying about the IDA’s operations since the change in administration here with regard to economic development. We have been focusing on job creation and job retention.”

Hughes also said the low cost per job shows “we run a tight operation. We run our IDAs like they should be run. We do our due diligence and play by the rules.”

IDAs are independent public authorities that offer real property tax, sales and mortgage recording tax exemptions, and low interest rate bonds to attract, retain and expand businesses. In 2008, there were 115 active IDAs.

Nicole Hanks of the comptroller’s office said the report shows a need for more transparency and accountability for IDAs.

“There’s still a lot of shadow surrounding IDAs. We need to spread a little more sunlight and transparency to make sure tax dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible and that projects supported by those dollars are creating the most jobs possible,” according to the comptroller’s office.

Hanks said DiNapoli introduced legislation in the state Legislature this week to further tighten up regulations affecting IDAs. A key component of the legislation is to require IDAs to perform an assessment on each project after it has been completed to see if each goal has been met.

“There is no real measurement right now. We need more transparency,” Hanks said.

Hanks said the data in the report about cost per job and estimated net job changes are figures provided by each IDA and have not be audited by the comptroller. They, therefore, are not a real measure of an IDA’s activities since there is no benchmark by which to test success, she said.

“It is up to IDAs to report the data is accurate. These figures are assumed to be created,” Hanks said. She called the comptroller’s report “a tool people can use to ask questions of IDAs and to help them be more transparent.”

According to the comptroller, 115 IDAs in the state reported 4,471 projects worth an estimated $65.6 billion in 2008. The IDAs reported 341 projects from the 4,130 projects totaling $60.7 billion in 2007.

In 2008, IDAs provided $1.7 billion in gross tax exemptions, 87 percent of which were property tax exemptions and 12 percent of which were state and local sales tax exemptions, according to the report. These tax benefits were offset by PILOTs totaling $1.1 billion, producing net exemptions totaling $645 million, the report stated. This is an increase of $52 million, or 9 percent, over net exemptions reported in 2007.

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