Broome County IDA – Transferring the Wealth

by Dave Duncan

The Office of the New York State Comptroller has issued a report that exposes the Broome County Industrial Development Agency (BCIDA) as an agency that exists to transfer wealth from the working class to preferred large developers.

An analysis of the report shows that the BCIDA is a tool of the ruling local capitalists who are out to make a buck by getting millions in tax concessions while local residents see destructive cuts in public jobs, public services and money for schools.

The BCIDA serves a few people at the expense of the many. The bankers profit by selling bonds. The wealthy who buy those bonds do not have to pay taxes on the income from them. Developers get massive tax breaks while they make profits at our expense.

The BCIDA was established in 1970. It owns and manages the 600 acres of corporate park in Conklin and more than 1.2 million square feet of real estate in the community. Many years ago the BCIDA advertised nationally for businesses to relocate here. Their selling point was that the local workforce was more highly educated than the national average, 27% more productive, unorganized and cheap. The BCIDA is sponsored by the Broome County government.

According to the State report, the BCIDA extended tax benefits totaling $101.3 million for eleven projects for the period of January 2004 to June 2011. The state analysis does not include the millions in sales tax or mortgage recording fees.  From the period prior to this report there have been other BCIDA projects that have had tax breaks that add millions more to the loss of local income. BCIDA also owns the former site of the British owned BAE plant in Johnson City that paid no taxes.  At the rate of property tax break doled out over the past seven years, in current dollars the total tax breaks awarded by the BCIDA amounts to over $600 million.

Jobs Creation—Who Cares

These capitalists, however, do not feel the need to justify their activities in terms of contribution to decent jobs.

While the BCIDA books show the massive tax breaks to developers, the NYS Report states that the BCIDA has not independently verified the number of jobs the sponsored developers were to create, nor did it obtain salary information related to the jobs. For the forty-two years of its existence as a job creating agency, the BCIDA has omitted collecting verified information on jobs created,  thus proving that the agency’s priority is benefitting  bankers and developers. Jobs and decent paycheck are not.

The BCIDA Ignores the Law—They Report to No One

The chairman of the BCIDA board of directors was cited in the report because he has a sizeable financial interest in the $25 million student housing project in downtown Binghamton, a project approved by the agency.  While BCIDA board chairman George Akel did not involve himself in the discussion of the project, nor did he vote on it, the state calls his actions illegal.

Under the conflict of interest state municipal law the board chairman should have resigned or the project should not have come before the board. Mr. Akel remains chairman and the process continues as usual.  To hell with the conflict of interest law!  Clearly, the bankers, lawyers, and county legislators who sit on this board have ignored the law.

Time to End the BCIDA as We Know It

It is time to eliminate or at least revamp the BCIDA. The board should reflect the community, especially those people who have family members who need decent paying jobs. The bankers and lawyers can provide advice as requested by board members. If major changes are not demanded by the Broome County government (which represents the people) the BCIDA will continue to transfer millions from the majority of residents and small business owners, to the wealthy minority.

Welfare by Another Name?

In a recent front page article in the Press& Sun-Bulletin, County Executive Debbie Preston was shown examining a picture of a Mercedes, owned by someone who had applied for public assistance. The owner of the car was denied benefits. But it was a cheap shot by Ms. Preston who is trying to show her crackdown on welfare cheats while ignoring the clear financial conflict of interest problem of the BCIDA board chairman George Akel.  Will the Press and Sun Bulletin show Ms. Preston with a picture of Mr. Akel’s automobile or other assets?  Probably not!  She knows who is important (to her) and who is not.

PLEASE SCROLL DOWN FOR A BOX WITH IMPORTANT INFORMATION!!! THANKS.

BCIDA Real Property Tax Reductions Per Project

January 2004 – June 2011

Project Annual AverageTax Reduction         Total TaxesReduced
Gannett      $359,492           $5,392,376
University Plaza      $312,566           $3,125,661
Maines       $330,345          $4,955,175
Millenium Pipeline       $898,145        $13,472,168
Maines 2         $53,912             $808,674
Scannell         $54,598             $545,976
Good Shepherd    $2,021,800        $60,654,011
New Vision           $1,714               $17,137
Impress           $7,500             $150,000
Washington       $391,079          $7,821,589
Stellar 83   $442,132          $4,421,317
        Total $4,873,283      $101,364,084
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