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IDA backs off tax break policy

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The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency is backing off a proposal that would have allowed it to require local governments to give tax breaks to developers on certain payment-in-lieu-of-taxes arrangements.

IDA officials said they decided not to go forward with the plan because of misinformation and the blowback it received from some quarters of the community. Earlier this month, the IDA decided to take some preliminary steps to publicize the plan and gauge the temperature of the community.

"It got out there that this was a done deal, and that we were going to ram something down somebody's throat," said David Converse, the IDA chairman. "That's not the way we work. We're a part of the community."

The IDA had considered changing its tax break policy so that with a five to seven vote, it could require local governments, including school boards, to give payment in lieu of taxes arrangements to businesses on standard pro rata distributions. But distributions that deviate from standard pro rata — which comprise most of the tax break agreements that the IDA carries out — would still need approval from all the local governments.

Many members of the Jefferson County Legislature, including Legislator Michael J. Docteur, R-Cape Vincent, a voting IDA member, opposed the plan.

"This is a dead issue now," Mr. Docteur said. "The (IDA) board is not moving forward with this. They decided not to move forward with the proposal because it was not popular with the Jefferson County Board of Legislators."

The 305-unit Beaver Meadow Apartments project received a tax break, but not before considerable community debate in the taxing jurisdictions that considered it, including the town of Watertown, the Watertown City School District and Jefferson County. The jurisdictions will now consider a tax break for 394-unit Morgan Townhouses off County Route 202.

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