Henderson Town Supervisor John J. Culkin said the association believed renewable energy facility developers have access to enough financial incentives and their projects would fail regardless if they needed tax relief from the jurisdictions to build and operate them. The group is also opposed to any PILOT agreements for wind energy facilities in the county because of their potential impacts on Fort Drum. “Fort Drum is so important to this region,” Mr. Culkin said. The group of supervisors not only discouraged tax abatement for renewable energy projects, but for any businesses that would increase property and school taxes for their residents.
WATERTOWN – A group of town supervisors asked the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency to make business owners more accountable for their tax relief and to prevent tax abatement for renewable energy projects in its revised uniform tax exemption policy.
The JCIDA hosted a public hearing Tuesday for its revised UTEP, which outlines how the agency regulates and administers payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements, and invited all taxing jurisdictions. Revisions incorporated by the agency include an extension to the tax abatement duration to up to 20 years, a requirement for developers to seek agency approval for their appraisers and an addition of renewable energy facilities under 25 megawatts that provide economic benefits to the county to the list of qualified projects.
Henderson Town Supervisor John J. Culkin, who spoke on behalf of the Jefferson County Town Supervisor Association, shared a list of concerns regarding the revised UTEP and business accountability. Mr. Culkin said the supervisors compiled their comments Jan. 31 at the association’s previous meeting.
“This is a combined response from the majority of town supervisors,” he said. “We thought it would be best if we submitted a unified response.”
The association of supervisors stated that it believes renewable energy projects should not receive tax relief and agency board members should not have included them in the UTEP.
Mr. Culkin said the association believed renewable energy facility developers have access to enough financial incentives and their projects would fail regardless if they needed tax relief from the jurisdictions to build and operate them. The group is also opposed to any PILOT agreements for wind energy facilities in the county because of their potential impacts on Fort Drum.
“Fort Drum is so important to this region,” Mr. Culkin said.
The group of supervisors not only discouraged tax abatement for renewable energy projects, but for any businesses that would increase property and school taxes for their residents.
“This position is consistent with most taxing entities in Jefferson County who have opt-out of the Solar and Wind Energy System exemptions and have reduced the per centrum of exemption otherwise allowed for business investment,” Mr. Culkin said.
The association of supervisors wanted the agency to include provisions that enforce the terms established in PILOT agreements and ensure businesses would provide the benefits they promised to taxing jurisdictions. Mr. Culkin said.
Town supervisors also wanted the agency to include more details about how it recoups benefits from failing projects and how the taxing entities could be involved in the process, Mr. Culkin said. The UTEP references the JCIDA’s recapture policy, a separate policy that describes how it reclaims the value of tax exemptions granted to failing projects.
“If it became something the board of directors wanted to deal with, it would require them to review the recapture policy (too),” said Paul J. Warneck, a member of the JCIDA Board of Directors.
The group of supervisors also rejected the agency’s 20-year period abatement period because PILOT durations should account for a percentage of the proposed business’s expected lifespan not equal to 100 percent, Mr. Culkin said. Mr. Warneck said he hopes his fellow board members would make the 20-year abatement option a deviation rather than standard procedure.
“We lived with 15-year PILOTs for a long time,” he said.
In addition to listening to the supervisors’ comments, Mr. Warneck had his own recommendations for UTEP revisions.
Mr. Warneck said the agency should incorporate provisions that would allow them to provide sales tax relief and require PILOT mortgages.
“A PILOT mortgage is a mechanism to protect taxing jurisdictions in the event a company that enjoys the terms of a PILOT defaults,” he said.
F. Marshall Weir III, marketing director for the Jefferson County Local Development Corp., said the JCIDA board will further discuss its revised UTEP April 6 at its next meeting, adding that the board cancelled its March meeting because not enough members would be available to have a quorum.
“We will take their concerns and incorporate them into the dialogue of the evaluation of the UTEP,” said JCLDC CEO Donald C. Alexander.
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