BCIDA Costs Local Schools Big Money

By Emma Pulaski

Emmapulaski58@gmail.com

                 Over the last five years the Broome County Industrial Development Agency (BCIDA) has cost Broome County schools over $10 million through Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes (PILOT) agreements alone.  The BCIDA also costs school districts through their rental properties, which are also tax free even though they make an income on these properties.  Not only is the BCIDA contributing to the difficulties faced by local schools, but they shift the burden of paying for schools to local homeowners.  When the BCIDA gives a tax break it means homeowners pay more.  The BCIDA, in the last five years alone, has not only taken $10 million away from local schools, but from taxpayers who dutifully make-up for budget gaps left by corporate profits and lackluster state funding. 

From 2008 to 2012 the BCIDA cost BC schools over $2 million annually.  By offering tax breaks of up to 100% to any company with a decent sales pitch the BCIDA costs local schools.  Over that period at least $2,008,738 was taken from Susquehanna Valley, $1,190,106 from Johnson City, $850,883 from Binghamton, $848,133 from Windsor, and $468,578 from Vestal.  Projects like the luxury dorm project in downtown Binghamton, Twin River Commons, the NCI call center in Vestal, and a project to build even more office space in downtown Binghamton owned by the Matthews family are some of the more outrageous projects that cost our schools millions.  Maine-Endwell, Johnson City, Chenango Valley, and Windsor school districts share in the loss of another $3,556,661 due to BCIDA sponsorship of the Millennium Pipeline.  These calculations, I should note, are horrendously low for the simple fact that assessments on properties are frozen during the PILOT’s lifespan.  This means that companies do not face re-assessment on their properties.  This can add up significantly over time and has cost our school countless textbooks, improved football helmets, and teachers. 

The BCIDA costs schools and taxpayers in other ways as well.  The example of Windsor School District (Go Black Knights!) demonstrates how the BCIDA funnels money away from schools through its role as a landlord.   It’s been a long five years for the Windsor Central School District.   With the state cutting funding and costs rising the school district has had to cut a combined $2.1 from their budget between 2010 and 2012. To achieve this, the school shed 19 support staff, 14 professional staff, and 1 administrator.  They have also cut back on athletics and classroom materials.  The BCIDA owns at least two properties (121 and 265 Industrial Park Dr., the latter known as the Link Building which houses L3 Communications) assessed at a combined $9.6 million on which they pay no taxes because of their tax exempt status.  With a tax rate of $23.4 for $1,000 of property value this amounts to a loss of $233,280 annually. At the same time the BCIDA has made over $3.5 million in rent from the Link building, which  it pays nothing to maintain according to their own records.  This means that between PILOT agreements and its land holdings the BCIDA has shirked the Windsor Central School District out of over $4.3 million (just in the last five years), while making millions so it can subsidize more important things like “business trips” to fracking conferences, and the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open (see previous editions of the People’s Press for more on this).

These policies cost tax payers money.  When large properties are off the tax rolls it means that smaller property owners have to pick up the tab.  For example, in 2011 a PILOT agreement between the BCIDA and Universal Instruments expired.  As a result what would have been a 3.68% increase on all properties was only a 2.35% tax increase.  This means that over the previous ten years taxpayers had subsidizing Universal Instrument’s school tax bill without ever having been advised, much less allowed to vote, on such a subsidy. 

The BCIDA is only one of many organizations that diminish our tax base, take money away from schools, and put a heavier burden on everyone, homeowners and non-property owners alike.  Local governments make special deals with business all the time.  Businesses like Boscov’s in downtown Binghamton, L3 Communications in Kirkwood, and EIT in Endicott all have special deals that exist outside of the BCIDA framework.   New York State also hands out tax breaks that keep properties off the tax rolls.  Emerson Power Surge and Dillinger’s Celtic Pub and Eatery are two prominent examples. 

Taxpayers and schools can no longer afford to let big businesses off the hook.  Due to state, local, and IDA policies our local schools have lost over a 1,000 teachers and support staff in the last five years alone.  The 2011-2012 budgets for Broome County Schools alone cut over 400 positions from area schools.  And this was after years of cuts following the Great Recession!  It is time to say “NO!” to policies and programs that cut teachers and put corporate profits ahead of education. 

 

How much money has IDA tax breaks cost you

and your school district in the last five years?

 

                  School District

    $$$ taken from BC Schools

           Susquehanna Valley

2,008,738

                Johnson City

1,190,106

                Binghamton

    850,883

                    Windsor

    848,133

                       Vestal

    468,578

                        Total

5,366,438

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