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Amherst IDA wants its name off property titles

The Amherst Industrial Development Agency wants to get its name off the titles on many of the properties it has provided with tax incentives.

The agency is stepping up its efforts to remove its name from the titles on property that received tax breaks from the IDA – often a decade ago or longer – but whose incentives have since expired.

The move is more of a bookkeeping effort and does not have any impact on the amount of taxes that those properties pay. But IDA officials said Friday that getting the agency’s name off the titles will clear up confusion that often arises over the tax status of those properties.

That’s because property with the IDA’s name in the title is considered to be exempt from taxes, even after the incentives have expired. In those cases, the property owners essentially are paying their full share of property taxes, but for bookkeeping purposes, those payments are listed as PILOT, or payment-in-lieu-of-taxes, payments.

Removing the agency’s name from the titles puts the properties back on the tax rolls officially, although it doesn’t mean any additional revenue for local schools and governments.

The agency removed its name from the titles of 29 properties last year and during the first three months of this year, said James J. Allen, the IDA’s executive director. That move put $77.5 million in assessed value back on the tax rolls. Those properties pay $2.3 million to Erie County, the Town of Amherst and local schools through PILOT payments. In the future, those payments will be considered regular tax payments.

“We think it’s the right thing to do to get out of title as quickly as possible,” Allen said Friday.

Of the 29 parcels that the IDA took its name off the title since the beginning of last year, 19 were for properties that had PILOT agreements that expired in either 2013 or 2014. The remaining property had tax incentives that expired before 2013.

Nathan Neill, the IDA’s attorney, said it sometimes can take years to complete the legal steps needed to remove the IDA from a property’s title, especially if the company is a large, out-of-town corporation.

But the IDA is pushing to get its name off of property titles, whenever possible, because it reduces the agency’s potential exposure to lawsuits, Neill said.

It also eliminates possible confusion over those parcels being officially listed as tax-exempt when they are paying the equivalent of full taxes through PILOT agreements.