WHEATFIELD – The property tax break that a Town of Niagara company received in 2010 was revoked Wednesday because the company didn’t keep its promise to pay its back taxes and water and sewer bills.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency board voted unanimously to cancel TAM Ceramics’ tax break, and returned the company to fully taxable status.
IDA counsel Mark J. Gabriele said the action was the result of a Jan. 27 article in The Buffalo News that showed TAM owed the county more than $627,000 – money it had promised to pay by Oct. 1, 2011.
Gabriele said no money has been paid since he sent the company a 30-day warning letter in January. Instead, he told the board, the company sent him a letter Feb. 26, asking for a one-year extension of its time to pay.
“We’ve already given them one extension,” said Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker, IDA vice chairman. “When people sit down with us at this table, we expect them to be honest with us. It’s important for everybody to know we mean what we say here.”
The IDA hadn’t acted before The News revealed TAM’s arrears because it received a notice from the Town of Niagara, indicating it had received its money.
The town’s notice didn’t mention that it had received the $627,000, not from TAM, but from the County Treasurer’s Office. Under state law, the county must make towns whole when special district taxes go unpaid. The county then pursues a tax lien against the delinquent customer.
The county and the town are trying to hash the matter out, with an extra complication arising from the belief that some of the money the county paid actually was owed by TAM to the Niagara Falls Water Board, not to the town. If that’s true, the county shouldn’t have paid it.
Also, TAM is pursuing lawsuits against the town to try to get its plant’s assessment reduced from the current $1.5 million. The company has filed lawsuits four years in a row, with the last two demanding that the plant’s value be set at $1.
TAM President George H. Bilkey and attorney Robert L. Bencini did not return calls to comment Wednesday.
The financial impact of being returned to full value taxation, effective with the 2013-14 Niagara Wheatfield school taxes, would be substantial.
For example, the company’s payment in lieu of taxes to the county this year was only $7,027, according to the county Real Property Services Office. At full value of $1.5 million, its county tax bill would be $20,115. TAM’s school tax bill would be $55,725 and its town tax bill $5,850.