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WHEATFIELD – The creation of a local development corporation, which would give the town a way to make loans to businesses, was proposed to the Town Board on Monday.

“It’s going to give us the opportunity to offer a true incentive package,” said William Wagner, chairman of the town’s business development focus group, which came up with the idea.

Several Niagara County communities have such local development corporations, including Lumber City Development Corp. in North Tonawanda and Greater Lockport Development Corp. in the City of Lockport.

Wagner said that such a corporation cannot grant tax breaks, as an industrial development agency could.

“This would have nothing to do with replacing what the IDA does,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said.

Nor would the corporation provide full funding for any business project.

“We could offer 10 to 15 percent of the financing package,” Wagner said. “We can work with the IDA to create a more comprehensive package.”

The initial funding would come from a grant from a higher level of government. Wagner spoke of seeking a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The interest and principal repayments on such loans would be available to be lent again by the corporation, Wagner said.

The corporation would be officially separate from the town and is considered a tax-exempt, private, not-for-profit entity, Wagner said. “There’s really no cost or liability to the town,” Wagner said.

“I’m sort of excited in the idea,” Cliffe said.

Wheatfield Local Development Corp. would be governed by a seven-member board of directors.

According to Wagner, task force member Lawrence D. Witul, retired assistant director of the county IDA, suggested that at least two of the seven members should be elected officials.

Richard Torcasio, another member of the task force, said that Wheatfield is trying to obtain some franchisees for its Town Center project and that having a town agency might help.

“There’s really no one single group focused on Wheatfield,” he said.

Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole said the corporation would have more “status” with businesses than the business development focus group has.

“I think it gives us the perception the town is actively seeking new business,” Wagner said.

In another matter Monday, the board approved a law to add any building permit or inspection fees left unpaid as of Sept. 30 to the following year’s taxes, as long as 30 days’ written notice has been given to the person who owes the money.

Also, the Town Board will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Town Hall on a proposed 2014 budget that would reduce the tax levy by 4.83 percent.

The tax bill for a typical home in the town, which is assessed at $125,000, would fall by $32.04, to $489.30, a reduction of 6.15 percent. Almost all of the property tax change comes from the abolition of the highway tax, which last year raised $190,342. The Highway Department is counting on an increase in sales tax revenue next year for its primary funding.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com