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Schenctady city, county IDAs better than average in comptroller report

Schenctady city, county IDAs better than average in comptroller report

Agencies have created more jobs at less cost than statewide average, fiscal watchdog finds

SCHENECTADY — Schenectady’s city and county IDAs spent less than the statewide and regional average to create jobs, the state Comptroller’s Office found in its latest number-crunching report on industrial development agencies.

Both IDAs were well below their average counterparts for operational costs and for tax exemptions per job created, according to the report for the 2017 fiscal year, issued Wednesday by the comptroller.

The city IDA was fourth-highest among upstate cities or towns for net job creation and the county IDA was second-lowest statewide for internal expenses per job created, noted Ray Gillen, chairman of the Schenectady County Metroplex Authority, which administers both IDAs.

He took the report as a compliment.

“The Comptroller’s report shows that our economic development efforts are among the least costly in New York state, yet we continue to demonstrate strong results in terms of job creation.”    

For the two IDAs, the report tallies a combined 63 projects with a total value of $715 million and a net job increase of 3,875. These projects include the facilities of such prominent employers as Capital Living, CTDI, Fluor, MVP and Transfinder.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli didn’t single out any IDA to compliment or criticize, but he sounded a familiar cautionary note about industrial development agencies as a whole.

“The need for close scrutiny of economic development efforts has never been higher,” said DiNapoli. “My office releases IDA data so New Yorkers can examine if incentives given out to create and retain jobs in their communities are worth it.”

Statewide, 109 IDAs issued a combined $751 million in net tax exemptions on 4,385 projects. These created 198,522 jobs for an average net tax exemption of $3,782 per job, or $37.83 for each of New York state’s nearly 20 million residents. 

Meanwhile, IDAs statewide incurred $102 million in operating expenses in 2017, or $23,271 per project, or $514 for each job they claimed as having created.

The Schenectady County IDA spent only $59 per job and the City of Schenectady IDA spent $173. 

Gillen said the city IDA figure is normally much lower. (The comptroller’s 2015 report put the figure at just $38 per job.) But 2017 was an anomaly because the $402,404 purchase of two derelict properties drove its total expenses to $471,121.

“We did a couple of real estate projects, mostly notably Chubby’s Pizza,” he said.

He said the unified countywide development approach improves effectiveness and cuts cost — neither IDA has a paid staff. Salaried employees of Metroplex (which has a 2019 operating budget of $1.2 million) run the IDAs, whose boards of directors are unpaid. 

The IDAs do incur legal and accounting fees, however.

Gillen said the two IDAs continue to exist because they are able to do things Metroplex is able to do with difficulty or not at all, such as certain residential projects. (“Industrial” is a broad term; only 26 percent of the IDA projects statewide involve manufacturing, the Comptroller’s Office reported.)

Here are some statistics for select Capital Region and Mohawk Valley industrial development agencies; from left to right are number of projects, combined value, net tax exemptions, net job change, and IDA expenses per job gained:

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