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IDA SEES PROBLEM IN SCHOOL BOARD SEAT ON AGENCY

The chairman of the Lancaster Industrial Development Agency board of directors Tuesday said that although he isn't against Lancaster School District representation on the board, it could create a problem if other governmental entities demanded equal treatment.

"Where do you stop?" asked Robert H. Giza, Lancaster supervisor and head of the town's seven-member IDA board.

"We've looked at expanding to nine, but if you put on Lancaster schools, what about Depew (schools), the Village of Lancaster, the Village of Depew, the fire companies?" he asked.

The subject of getting a seat on the town IDA came up Monday night during a Lancaster School Board discussion of an upcoming court fight with Tops Markets Inc.

Tops Markets wants the property assessment on which it makes payments in lieu of taxes to the town, school district and county slashed from $46 million to about $9 million.

Lancaster school officials are considering whether to split the cost of a $35,000 appraisal fee with the town in return for an equal say in the court case, including the approval of any settlement.

School district representation on IDA boards, which grant tax breaks to attract business and jobs, is long overdue, School Board President Edward Carlsen believes. School taxes account for half or more of the typical local tax bill in the county.

Giza said the Lancaster School District receives notices of IDA meetings and agendas, and that its position on any project would carry a great deal of weight with IDA decision-makers.

But he said that in his three years on the IDA board, "no School Board member has ever attended one of our meetings, to the best of my knowledge.

"Many people speak at our meetings. At any given time, a School Board member could attend and have a lot of input. Or they could send a letter. You don't have to be a member to have input, and I can't imagine the School Board's position on a project not getting really heavy consideration," Giza said.

Giza also said he considers Lancaster School Superintendent Joseph L. Girardi and Assistant Superintendent Edward J. Myszka to be such good friends "that if they ever took me aside a told me they didn't like a particular project, I would certainly pass it on to the board."

There are no pending vacancies on the IDA board because all its members were just reappointed.

Giza said that according to lawyers who have checked into the issue, an expansion from seven members would need approval by the State Legislature.

Besides Giza, current IDA members include a banker, a mortgage broker and the owners of a tool company, a company that makes business forms, a clothing store, and a water treatment company. They receive no compensation.

Giza said he knows of no project in the past three years that the school district could have opposed because it didn't meet established IDA guidelines for tax inducements.

"All were clearly eligible," he said.

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