For the past few years, Rock Hill resident Dave Colavito has been waging a campaign to have information about projects that receive tax breaks in Sullivan County made more readily accessible to the public. He served on the Sullivan County Charter Review Commission in 2007 and 2008, and that was one of the resolutions of the commission.
In pursuing that end, Colavito received from the New York State Authorities Budget office an Excel file that provides information, such as the value of the tax breaks the projects received, the number of jobs projected to be created and the number of jobs that were actually created, for the 68 projects that received tax incentive through the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency in 2008 and 2009.
The file shows that 23 of the 68 projects underperformed in terms of the creation of jobs, some of them strikingly so. The project for RSS Realty Associates in 2009, for example, which involved the renovation of a shopping mall in Liberty, received a total of $420,664 in tax benefits with the expectation that about 50 jobs would be created, but no jobs were created.
It now appears that file, and others like it for 2010 and beyond, will be posted on www.sullivanida.com , the IDA website.
At a meeting at the government center on January 6, Jennifer Brylinski, the executive director and chief operating officer of the IDA, told lawmakers that it would be possible for her to send data to Albany, have a file prepared for 2010 when the data becomes available in March and to post it.
During a discussion on the matter, county manager David Fanslau noted that in his State of the State address on January 5, Governor Andrew Cuomo said New York State has the worst business tax environment in the country, suggesting that additional scrutiny and reporting might be seen as anti-business.
In a phone interview, Colavito said, “New York State also has one of the worst property tax burdens in the country, and every tax break must be paid for by the remaining taxpayers.”
At the meeting, lawmaker David Sager said tax incentives must be “a two-way street, because otherwise only that one business wins, the community doesn’t win.”
Lawmaker Ron Hiatt said, “We talk about performance measures all the time. Well, let’s just see what the numbers come to.”
Brylinski said she could have the two existing files posted on the site within two weeks.
Colavito said, “It’s a very positive development; taxpayers should know how tax breaks are being applied. And ultimately, it’s not just about jobs; it’s about living-wage employment for Sullivan County residents.” In the past, some IDA projects have been criticized for not creating jobs with living wages and benefits.