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Letter: A few points about the Vista Tech Park

Editor, The Spotlight:

As Executive Director of the Town of Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency (BIDA), I am responding to seven questions posed by Robert C. Babbitt in the Sept. 25 issue of The Spotlight.

  1. Question: Six of the 17 projects are construction. The total estimated net job change is 197. Can these 197 jobs be considered other than temporary? Answer: Six new projects were constructed in 2012 which provided 283 temporary construction jobs, 195 permanent jobs and 19 retained jobs.

  2. Question: Does the $1,059,083.27 cost per job gained for the Selkirk Cogen project make it a questionable BIDA investment? Answer: There are two benefits to the town from the Cogen project namely, jobs and a capital investment of $392 million. In 2012 Cogen made a payment in lieu of tax (PILOT) payment of $4,558,886 more than double the normal taxes of $2,100,040 that Cogen would have paid if this had not been an IDA project. The NYS Comptroller has reported that the town and school district received PILOT payments in excess of normal taxes on IDA projects in 2007, 2008 and 2009; the primary reason for these excess payments is, I believe, the Cogen PILOT payments. The Cogen investment was an excellent project for the town.

  3. Question: The projects at 35 Hamilton Lane and 41 Hamilton Lane are listed as “Finance, Ins. and Real Estate”. Is this an unusual location for these types of business? Answer: These projects were real estate investment projects. In the computer program mandated by the NYS Comptroller, the only project use category that fit these projects was “Finance, Insurance and Real Estate.” The location is not unusual for real estate projects.

  4. Question: Do the Berkshire Bank and SEFCU actually need tax exemptions? Answer: Yes. Those projects would not have been built without tax exemptions. See “Guest Opinion” by IDA chairman Frank Venezia in the Sept. 18 Spotlight.

  5. Question: Do the two Slingerlands I LaSalle Med. Office projects current number of full-time employees of 73.5 and 109 seem reasonable? Answer: Yes. We have no reason to doubt the numbers reported by these projects.

  6. Question: Is the YMCA project estimate of 150 jobs to be created a realistic number? Answer: BIDA had no reason to doubt the number reported by the YMCA. BIDA did not provide tax exemptions to the YMCA because it was a tax-exempt entity, but BIDA assisted with tax-exempt bonds because the YMCA was an important addition to the community and provided an adaptive reuse on the site of a closed ice arena.

  7. Question: Do officials or boards representing NYS, local, county and school have the opportunity to review and approve or disapprove tax exemptions? Answer: Yes. BIDA notifies town, county and school districts of proposed tax exemptions and considers recommendations by those bodies to approve or disapprove of the exemptions. I can’t remember a time when other tax jurisdictions disapproved a new project. The reason is, that even with the tax exemptions, taxing jurisdictions receive more tax revenue from new projects than they would receive in the absence of those projects.

Thomas P. Connolly

Executive director, Bethlehem Industrial Development Agency

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