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Another Voice: Amherst IDA follows the rules and benefits the town’s taxpayers

By Edward F. Stachura

In a recent editorial, The Buffalo News again criticized the Amherst Industrial Development Agency. It is evident that The News and many others do not know the workings of any IDA, much less the AIDA. They continue to criticize the very success that the AIDA, in particular, has had.

From 1980 to 2010, 80 percent of all net new jobs in the region were created in the Town of Amherst. Out of more than 300 projects for which the AIDA has provided initiatives, 150 of them are now paying full taxes, while 150 still in AIDA title are paying more taxes than the county, school and town would have experienced without the project. In the past year, more than $7 million was paid from the payment-in-lieu of taxes. Although exempt, the AIDA itself pays school taxes on its offices.

The AIDA’s mission is to promote economic diversity and quality employment opportunities and to broaden the tax base of Amherst. The AIDA does so by inducing eligible economic development and not discouraging it. Only eligible projects are presented to its board for consideration of approval. Political considerations are never an evaluation item. Is the project eligible? Is there a community benefit? Are community benefits greater than the community investment? The AIDA’s success has resulted in reasonable tax rates for the town. No public funds are given to build the project. Project financing and risk is 100 percent the applicant’s.

The AIDA is and always has been accountable to the town and to the New York State Authority Budget Office by filing annual reports. If there were ever questionable projects, that office would have noted it. The State Comptroller’s Office notes that the AIDA is the state’s fourth-ranked in net job change and has the lowest cost.

On taxes, it can be consistently shown that AIDA properties pay more in taxes, even in the first year of a PILOT, than they had before the project had been initiated. Special district taxes are never abated, paying 100 percent based on the property’s increased value. Increased revenue to school districts comes without adding one student.

The AIDA’s evaluation includes a financial analysis that compares the applicant benefit to the community benefit. And let’s be clear on this, the rate of financial return to the community is many more times than the community’s inducement value to the project. And this happens in the first year. Taxes paid are more than they were without the project and increase each year. Without the project, there would be no increased tax revenue. So, the inducements should be viewed as an investment to the future.

Learn more about the AIDA. Ask questions, attend a public meeting or visit and meet with us. The issues are not as simple as expressed by others.

Edward F. Stachura is vice chairman of the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.