Buffalo's shrinking tax base is a major problem for the city, which has a pressing need for property-based revenues. But foregoing some of those revenues now for a better chance at a brighter future still makes sense, and proposals for a Buffalo Brownfield Redevelopment Fund deserve serious consideration.
Although still tentative, the fund concept -- which involves reinvesting some money from successful brownfields projects to make even more old industrial land ready for reuse -- got a boost in the form of backing from the Erie County Industrial Development Agency this month. City and county officials now should take a hard look at the idea.
The current focus is the 114-acre Buffalo Lakeside Commerce Park, the redevelopment of old Hanna Furnace land along the Union Ship Canal at the Lackawanna border. About $10 million in public money provided by the city, county and state went toward making that land ready for a new privately built $8 million complex that will have a new CertainTeed manufacturing plant as its first tenant.
Governments hope to expand that Empire Zone development by cleaning up another 130 acres, but the $10 million to $12 million to do so isn't yet committed. Because tax incentives often involve PILOT -- "payment in lieu of taxes" -- agreements, instead of property levies that flow directly into government coffers, such agreements could be structured to divert some portion of the payments to a pool of money for more brownfield cleanups and infrastructure projects.
The Buffalo Brownfield Redevelopment Fund would be jointly administered by the Erie County Industrial Development Agency and Development Downtown. It would cut into the city's share of property taxes, to be sure, but it could more quickly return other abandoned property to the tax rolls. That's an investment in the future worth making.