Seneca IDA operates at massive loss each year; forecasting $327K deficit for 2016

It’s an expensive and sometimes difficult task bringing business to the Finger Lakes.

That’s what the Seneca County Industrial Development Agency is tasked with making happen. They use various programs, incentives, and tax breaks to bring certain businesses into the fold. Those businesses are then traditionally held up to scrutiny to follow through on their promises.

Oftentimes, a PILOT, or a payment in lieu of taxes is offered to a business considering a move to Seneca County. Those deals are created to spur growth, but more importantly to improve job numbers in the community.

It’s a process that frequently draws criticism.

There’s no doubt that the Seneca County IDA has received its share of criticisms. Whether the raw job numbers are being counted, or the sheer volume of tax incentives are being accounted for – a lot of people see a great deal of opportunity left on the table.

That opportunity includes a larger tax base – if these deals were not given, less burden on the average property tax owner if less incentives were being given to prospective businesses, and of course – the actual number of jobs generated by these deals.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in business, though.

It isn’t just a difficult task bringing business to Seneca County, as the current IDA board has learned.

It’s an expensive one, too.

During the budget workshop held a few weeks ago in Seneca County, board members discussed various funding options for organizations in the region. While donations were looked at closely, a contribution, which was not a donation – to the Seneca County IDA caught the attention of a few supervisors.

The line item dedicated more than $50,000 in 2017 to the IDA from the tentative budget.

Seneca Falls Supervisor Steve Churchill asked why they would need $50,000 with the prospective sale of the former Seneca Army Depot in Romulus. Fayette Supervisor Cindy Garlick Lorenzetti suggested that Robert Aronson, Executive Director of the Seneca County IDA address the board regarding that budget request.

On Tuesday, Aronson addressed the board showing how much the IDA costs to run.

In a balance sheet distributed to board members it was revealed that the IDA ran in 2015 with a nearly $300,000 operating deficit. Aronson said, “This is why we hope that we can receive the necessary benefit from the County,” referring to the more than $50,000 investment from Seneca County.

The operating deficit, which was specifically $291,652 in 2015 is expected to grow to $327,806 in 2016, and then be reduced down to $227,610 in 2017. However, the bottom line remains that the IDA does no better than losing a quarter-of-a-million dollars in any scenario outlined by Aronson over the next five years.

The board took no action and asked no questions of Aronson.

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