KINGSTON – The Ulster County Legislature made two major decisions regarding economic development in the county, Tuesday evening, the first of which included passing the Kingstonian project’s amended Industrial Development Agency proposal.
The amended proposal for the 25-year, $30.6 million PILOT was passed 17-6, but with some contention from residents. Even after a recent cost-benefit analysis from a third-party hired by the county, several residents were concerned the new PILOT would affect school tax revenue in the Kingston School District. These concerns were heightened by the inability for the school to reopen because of COVID-19, a development caused, in part, by lack of funding.
Legislative Chairman David Donaldson said this is not the case. The property in question has been off of the tax rolls, generating no school tax revenue and an agreement within the PILOT would actually increase the Kingstonian’s tax burden, should the project be more financially successful than predicted.
Additionally, Donaldson said that the project was a major catalyst for the City of Kingston being awarded DRI grant funding from the state.
“This does not reduce any taxes to the City of Kingston, or reduce any taxes to the school district. It’s not taking any money away, it’s actually adding money to it. This was a lynchpin in the attraction of $10 million in grant money into the City of Kingston,” said Donaldson. “When the Governor came down, this was the thing he looked at the most because he saw this as a downtown development, a development that people have been waiting for in the City of Kingston for decades,” he said.
Legislators Bruno, Cahill, Ronk, and Fabiano backed up the claim the project would not detract from school tax revenue.
Secondly, the legislature passed an amendment to their capital plan and bonded for the amount of $399,282 to begin the initial reconstruction of Enterprise West, the former Bank of America building at Tech City, both of which passed 18-5.
Legislator Brian Cahill said these resolutions, in tandem with approving the Kingstonian’s amended PILOT, are sending a message of interest and sincerity to businesses looking to set up in the county.
“We’re undertaking some major projects in Ulster County in the coming year here. We’re looking at development on Golden Hill. We’re looking at the Almshouse. We’re looking at the Kingstonian and now, we’re looking at Enterprise West,” said Cahill. “You combine all four of these and that sends a very distinct, clear message to folks who are looking in this area that we’re serious about improving things, we’re serious about economic development and we’re serious about helping the community forward,” he said.
Legislators Mannajo Greene and Eve Walter were among the no-votes and maintained the county should not be allocating money to a development when they are looking at budget cuts in quality of life services, as well as being in the midst of COVID 19.
Legislative Minority Leader Ken Ronk said there is a distinction with this capital funding for Enterprise West and that it will not affect operational budget items.
“These are capital items which are going to be bonded for, which don’t come out of the same pot of money, in one year, as monies that have to be cut due to budget constraints this year,” said Ronk.
Those for and against came to a general consensus that having the county act as a landlord is not ideal, but with the majority holding the most likely way to get rid of the property, at a reasonable value, is to commence the improvements.