The Malta Town Board eliminated a burdensome fee on commercial developments this week, a move officials say will pave the way for economic growth to match its rising population.
It’s nice to say that Malta is a wonderful place to live, which it is,” Supervisor Vincent DeLucia said. “We’d like to also make it a wonderful place that has more jobs and is not totally dependent on just Global Foundries.”
The recreation mitigation fee was removed in the updated Town Wide Generic Environmental Impact Statement, which the board voted unanimously to approve Monday night. The town will continue to collect a recreation fee for large-scale housing developments.
The rec fee of $1.12 per square foot added up quickly for developers looking to build in Malta, said Councilman Tim Dunn, who chairs the town’s Economic Development Committee. A 100,000-square-foot building would carry a charge of $112,000, for example. He said most Capital Region communities do have a similar fee in place.
We’ve heard directly and anecdotally from developers that this is one of the things that makes it difficult to do business in Malta,” said Dunn, who, along with DeLucia, took office last January.
He said the town needs a “diversified economy” that doesn’t rely solely on GlobalFoundries, whose Fab 8 chip plant employs 3,000 people in Malta, but also that supports the town’s top employer.
Nowhere in the world has a town or region succeeded by relying on just one employer, particularly in the tax space,” he said.
Because the town levies no property tax, the budget relies heavily on its share of Saratoga County sales tax revenue, which increases with the town’s total assessed value, officials said in a news release. Out of the town’s $10.13 million spending plan for 2017, $4.66 million comes from projected sales tax revenue.
With other Saratoga County communities experiencing greater increases in assessed value than Malta, the town’s sale tax revenue has not kept up with increasing costs of services, officials said. This year’s budget increased spending by about $250,000, but town officials used nearly $600,000 in reserves to balance it.
With this in mind, the Town Board last year sought to make Malta more business-friendly in order to raise more sales tax revenue through a series of actions that culminated with Monday’s vote to eliminate the fee, town officials said.
In February, the board voted to change the zoning on Route 9 South to commercial from residential. In August, the town established an economic development committee to form a strategy and marketing plan for attracting commercial investment.
Following input from neighborhood residents, the board voted in October to rezone Route 67 West from residential to commercial. To evaluate the remaining commercial corridor on Route 9 North, the town appointed a Route 9 North Comprehensive Plan Review Committee in December.
We don’t want to have a town tax in Malta, and we want to do everything we can to preserve the services we have,” Dunn said.
He said the fee only raised $90,000 in revenue in 2016 and about $45,000 the year before.
We’re not talking about large sums of money coming in here, which obviously translate to there not being a lot of commercial investment,” he said.
Revenue from the fee could also only be used for capital parks projects, he said, “which means we had to build new parkland. It couldn’t be used for maintaining programs.”
DeLucia said businesses have said no to Malta because of the fee.
Dennis Brobston, president of the Saratoga Economic Development Corp., said he expects the move to result in more commercial development for Malta.
We’ve been working on projects over the years in Malta, and the ones that did not make it based on cost, it always came down to fee structure,” he said.
Mike Relyea, the former president of Luther Forest in Malta where Global Foundries is located, noted that the fee was charged before projects generated any revenue, making it prohibitive for developers.
It makes their town more competitive when it comes to locating projects,” said Relyea, who represents Luther Forest as a consultant, referring to the fee’s elimination, “and it certainly makes it that much more competitive when we can reduce the costs of projects by tens of thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
He said he’s in talks with companies looking to build in the Malta tech park, which has 500 acres of developable land, “and this will help. It may accelerate those plans.”