Hamburg Supervisor Steven J. Walters endorsed the benefits of industrial development agencies during his State of the Town address Friday.
“IDAs do not give money away; IDAs help create a growing tax base,” he said at the 12th annual Hamburg Chamber of Commerce State of the Town luncheon in Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant, Blasdell.
Despite the challenges of last year, Walters said the state of the town is “good.”
There has been a debate over the number of industrial development agencies in the region, and suburban IDAs have been criticized for giving tax breaks, leaving taxpayers in other communities to bear the cost of the incentives.
Walters said the return on incentives in the form of town, county and school taxes “is simply astounding.”
He said the parcel where Ravenwood North Industrial Park sits was generating about $15,000 annually in property taxes and would have paid a total of about $277,000 over the next 18 years at that rate. But with the Hamburg IDA helping the development of the property through tax abatement programs, the park has paid more than $3 million in school, town and county taxes from 1993 to 2011.
He also said the Hamburg IDA assisted with 45 projects over the past five years, and only three were from somewhere else in the state. The companies employ more than 1,300 people, he added.
During his prepared remarks, Walters noted accomplishments of his administration, which is entering the eighth and final year of his second term. He said his administration will continue its commitment to strong economic growth.
He noted the town had successful bicentennial activities, drawing thousands, and the combined Recreation, Senior and Youth Department is “more efficient, more responsive and more energetic than ever before.”
He said the rebranding of the town golf course last year to the Eighteen Mile Creek Golf Course created a course more welcoming to nonresidents. “This simple yet important change allows us to promote the course not just as a municipal golf course but as one of the top public courses in our area,” he said.
Woodlawn Beach State Park, operated by the town for a second year last year, drew more than 100,000 people and more than 20,000 paid vehicle admissions, generating nearly $300,000, he said. Critics had pointed out that the most New York State brought in when it ran the beach was about $50,000.
“We said this would be a tremendous success, and it has,” he said. “The only problems we have had over the first two years, is that even our most optimistic projections did not anticipate the success would come this quickly.”
Walters also blamed recent negative publicity about the town on the media, particularly The Buffalo News.
“What makes our work in town government all the more difficult is the negative perception that is created by the press. I will admit that we do not always agree as board members, but be fair,” he said.
The town is spending less than it has in more than six years, he said, and he attributed that to his “fiscal conservative policies have righted the ship.”