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Amityville lobbies state for more involvement in IDA tax deals

This  Amityville building, seen on Saturday, Aug. 5,

This  Amityville building, seen on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, will be new home for a commercial cleaning service as part of a deal worked out by the Babylon Town IDA.  Credit: Ed Betz

Amityville Village officials are seeking to get a state amendment passed that would allow them a seat at the table whenever tax breaks are given to local businesses.

The village wants to join the villages of Freeport and Hempstead and other municipalities around the state that have lobbied for more say in the dealings of industrial development agencies.

Under state law, IDAs are required to notify the municipality, along with the local school district and library, about any public hearings on potential tax breaks in the community. However, IDAs can grant tax abatements to businesses without seeking the approval of these local bodies.

Amityville has passed a resolution stating that the village board “seeks immediate legislative intervention by its State Representatives” to craft an amendment to state law that would allow the village to have “at least one member of the village’s governing body and at least three at-large members drawn from a cross section of the village” on the IDA board when a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, is being considered in the village.

“It’s about us, as a government, having a voice in what goes on within our village,” said Mayor Dennis Siry.

According to village officials, the Babylon Town IDA has given tax breaks to four of the village’s roughly 4,000 taxable parcels, resulting in a reduction of $63,348 in 2017 village property taxes and about $120,000 in county, town, library and school district taxes. As a result, they said, a village resident with a home valued at $375,000 has to pay about $45 more a year in property taxes to compensate.

“The purpose of this resolution is so that this governing body can become a bigger part of the decision-making process to decide if that $63,000 village tax subsidy is actually worth it to the rest of the village taxpayers,” said trustee Nick LaLota.

The move was spurred by last month’s finalizing of a fifth PILOT in the village for Imperial Commercial Cleaning, a West Babylon company. The IDA offered the company a 15-year PILOT that allows Imperial to pay 40 percent of the property tax the first year, or $5,502, with payments increasing by 4 percent each year. According to the IDA, the company plans to retain 23 full-time and 117 part-time jobs in its new Amityville location and create two to three full-time and 12 part-time jobs in each of the first two years.

Tom Dolan, vice president of business development for the Babylon Town IDA, said the agency tries to keep the villages informed. “We don’t just try to surprise them,” he said.

Dolan said having village residents on the board could help bring local insight, but members would have to receive education and training on how IDAs operate and the long-term economic impacts and goals of tax breaks.

“If people come to it with the right mindset and have that fiduciary responsibility and aren’t just coming to say ‘no’ to anything that comes to them, then I think it could be an OK thing,” Dolan said.

The village based the language of the resolution on a similar amendment passed in 2014 which allowed the villages of Hempstead and Freeport to have representation on the Hempstead IDA board during discussions of PILOTs.

Hempstead Village trustee Charles Renfroe served on the IDA board and said it has worked out well for the village. “It’s always good to have a seat at the table when they’re discussing things that impact your community,” he said.

The other villages in the town are split. Lindenhurst Mayor Mike Lavorata said he would support his village being added to a state amendment, but Babylon Village Mayor Ralph Scordino said his village has a good working relationship with the town IDA and wouldn’t want to be included in an amendment.

State Assemb. Kimberly Jean-Pierre (D-Babylon) said she would sponsor an amendment. State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) said he supports the resolution and is “exploring legislative options.”

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