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IDA HEARING TO AIR CHANGES IN TAX BREAK POLICIES

A public hearing on three proposed changes in the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency's policies on property-tax breaks is set for 5 p.m. March 15 in the County Legislature chambers in the Courthouse.

IDA Executive Director John R. Simon said the hearing is a required part of the five-year policy review the state mandates for all such agencies. The IDA board would then be able to act on the proposals at its March 18 meeting.

The alterations include a provision that would allow a 20-year schedule of payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, on certain very large industrial projects. At present, the maximum length of an industrial tax abatement is 15 years.

They pay 20 percent of a full property tax bill in the first and second years of their project, 30 percent in the third and fourth years, 40 percent in years five through nine, and 50 percent in years 10 through 15.

Simon said the 10-year schedule of PILOTs for commercial projects and the five-year schedule for retail projects would both be changed to require higher payments from the businesses that receive the property tax breaks.

Both schedules are based on sliding scales in which the size of the payments increases each year before the tax abatements expire and the project becomes taxable at regular rates.

The IDA wants commercial projects to pay 65 percent of a full tax bill in the 10th year, rather than the current 60 percent.

The commercial scale begins with a payment of 20 percent of full taxation in the first year, and increases by 5 percent per year, reaching 60 percent in the ninth year. Currently, the payment is the same in the 10th year as in the ninth.

For retail projects, the entire scale would be revamped. Retail projects assisted by the IDA make no payments in lieu of taxes until the third year, when they pay 25 percent of full taxation. They pay 50 percent in the fourth year, and 75 percent the fifth year.

Simon said under the changes, retail recipients of IDA aid would have to pay 15 percent of full value in the first year, 30 percent in the second year, 45 percent in the third, 60 percent in the fourth, and 75 percent in the fifth.

The proposals are contained within a report to all county municipalities required of the IDA by state law.

On Jan. 20, Simon made a presentation in Albany on the IDA's compliance with the reporting requirements imposed on all such agencies under 1997 state legislation. "We're being used as a model for the state," he said. "Our report was designed extremely well."

He said it was praised by Assemblyman Sam Colman, chairman of the Assembly Local Governments Committee.

The agency developed a reporting format which lists each project individually, with the amount of the PILOT and whether the payments are current. With the computer forms now set, it will be easy to update the report annually, Simon said.

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