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LETTER: IDA’s tax breaks must be reined in

Editor, The Spotlight:

Once again, the Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency (BIDA) has approved a 100 percent tax abatement for a building in the Vista Technology Park. Like the past three Tier I Enhanced Tax Abatements awarded by BIDA, this application fails to meet their established minimum criteria for this level of abatement. At the urging of political leaders, BIDA has ignored its own set of rules for awarding Tier I Enhance Tax Abatements in favor of providing tax abatements to the Vista project developer, BBL.

This most recent abatement, which will cost taxpayers in excess of $1 million, was awarded to the developer on a building that is 73 percent vacant. What’s even more disturbing is that the tenant that was used to support this application, Breonics Inc, is reported to have unpaid obligations to the Orange County IDA of more than $200,000.

Abatements are useful tools that can help attract businesses that will stimulate our local economy, create high paying jobs and create expediential growth above and beyond the tax revenues being relinquished. Global Foundries is an excellent example of a business that qualifies for this type of tax inducement. Unfortunately, BIDA has awarded Tier I Enhanced Tax Abatements to a grocery store, two bank branch offices and a partially vacant building. This is hardly the type of “economic development” that taxpayers should be expected to underwrite.

Town elected officials, along with BIDA, continue to support this tax giveaway in order to help BBL build their office park. Bethlehem residents should be concerned because tax revenues that should be going toward helping to reduce our tax rate are instead being awarded to the developer to sell his project. The tax burden for this project is being placed on the backs of resident taxpayers instead of the developer and his tenants. Remember the 12 percent town tax increase last year. Just imagine how much lower that could have been if Shoprite, SEFCU, Berkshire Bank and BBL were paying their fair share of taxes on their respective properties in the Vista Tech Park.

The BIDA Board serves at the pleasure of the Bethlehem Town Board. As we head into another election cycle, voters should demand that candidates commit to holding the BIDA accountable for this tax giveaway. The supervisor and board must take positive action to implement better oversight of BIDA. Voters should make sure they support those candidates that are looking out for the interest of the taxpayers, not the developers.

John H. Cunningham, Delmar

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