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Saratoga supervisors approve economic development merger

Saratoga supervisors approve economic development merger

Revenue sharing with towns and cities also OK'd

SARATOGA COUNTY -- County supervisors on Tuesday approved a framework for its competing economic development organizations to coordinate their efforts.

The Board of Supervisors, meeting in Ballston Spa, approved the new arrangement between the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership and Saratoga Economic Development Corp. by an 18-2 vote, with Supervisors Ed Kinowski, R-Stillwater, and Tara Gaston, D-Saratoga Springs, voting against it.

Kinowski has expressed concerns that SEDC be brought under the oversight of the state Authorities Budget Office before receiving funding from the county, while Gaston said it was premature for the county to commit to giving SEDC $150,000 next year for its economic development work.

“I think it’s fantastic to have this merger," Gaston said. ”My problem is with the amount of money ... I’d like the budget discussion to be in the budget, and not here.”

Under the new arrangement, SEDC will handle the majority of the county's external economic development marketing, while the Prosperity Partnership -- established by the county in 2014 to compete with SEDC -- will focus on working with towns, cities and villages to help them prepare for economic development. 

Having competing economic development organizations created confusion in the county's efforts to attract and retain businesses, county officials now concede. More than two dozen businesses, ranging from builders to Stewart's Shops, have written to county officials to support the prospective merger since it was announced less than two weeks ago.

Under the arrangement, Prosperity Partnership, which receives the majority of its funding through the county, will get $543,000 next year, and SEDC will receive $150,000. It would be the first time SEDC has received county funding since 2012. Both funding amounts would still be subject to approval when the 2020 county budget is developed this fall.

In 2012, the county and SEDC ended a 35-year relationship over the question of how much control the county would have over SEDC, which is a private non-profit organization that is controlled by business interests.

Echoes of that tension remained in Tuesday's debate, with Kinowski and others saying state ABO oversight was the best way to ensure SEDC will be accountable for any public money it receives.

Clifton Park Supervisor Phil Barrett, chairman of the county Economic Development Committee, said there's no need for such oversight because the county is simply contracting with SEDC to provide a service -- economic development marketing.

SEDC President Dennis Brobston said the organization opposes being brought under ABO oversight because he fears that could threaten the confidentiality of negotiations when SEDC is trying to attract new businesses to the county.

The resolution calls for SEDC to submit its annual budget to the county each year, something Brobston said the organization has no problems with doing.

Ballston Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak said the new arrangement is good for the county's economic development efforts. “The smaller towns are going to have access to a grant writer," he said. “We’re receiving many positive comments from the business community about this merger. I think it's definitely going to be a win-win for the county and for the business community."

Also Tuesday, supervisors approved a revenue-sharing arrangement under which every town and city in the county will receive an additional $20,000 per year from tipping fees at the county landfill in Northumberland, which is operated by a private company that pays a fee per ton of waste to the county. Each will receive $20,000 per year for 20 years, under the agreement.

Liz Kormos, a Ballston Spa village trustee, asked that villages be included in the disbursements. "The villages are a big or bigger than some of the small towns in the county, and their needs are as great or greater," she said.

The supervisors approved the revenue-sharing agreement unanimously without making any changes. "If there's a village in need, we are more than willing to work with the village on that," said Szczepaniak, chairman of the county Public Works Committee, which recommended the revenue-sharing arrangement.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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