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Genesee panel opposes law that would ax local bonding control

BATAVIA – The Genesee County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday agreed with the leader of the county’s industrial development agency and voted to oppose state legislation that would remove local control of bonds designed to help finance companies’ projects.

“We need to maintain our ‘home rule’ and keep local empowerment without having to go to the state for approval,” said Stephen G. Hyde, president and chief executive officer of the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

The proposed legislation would require tax-exempt private activity bonds that are subject to the bond volume cap and financed by local IDAs to be approved by the state’s Public Authority Control Board.

Hyde said these bonds currently are passed at the local level, and have no impact on state or local government debt. The bonds serve as financial tools for businesses looking to invest in specific projects such as manufacturing, housing, pollution control and waste disposal facilities.

The committee backed a resolution stating, in part, that since local IDAs are entitled to a third of the state’s nearly $2 billion in private activity bond capacity that it makes sense to continue local control of these funds, which has been the case for the past 29 years.

Hyde also addressed legislation – offered by Sen. Thomas F. O’Mara, R-Elmira, and Assemblyman Joseph D. Morrelle, D-Rochester – that would generate additional revenue for school districts and other local governments by treating IDA projects the same as other property for purposes of the state’s 2 percent tax cap.

“This is really important to communities that are experiencing growth or are hoping to attract new development,” Hyde said. “Currently, any properties that are under PILOTS (payments in lieu of taxes) are excluded (from the tax levy growth factor).”

Hyde reported that Dairy Farmers of America is at its “strategic analysis” phase following its purchase of the former Muller Quaker Dairy yogurt plant at the Genesee Agri-Business Park. “I think they are weighing several ideas as to what particular products they plan to produce at the facility,” he said.

Hyde also announced that more than 350 people have registered to attend the agency’s annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. Friday at Batavia Downs Gaming. Brian Eller, chief operating officer of 1366 Technologies, the Massachusetts-based solar company and first tenant of the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park, will be the featured speaker.