With the number of empty store fronts along Route 31 and Route 19, you’d think the Sweden Town Council would have a plan to deal with it. But they don’t.
There’s the empty bank building in the beautiful stone building on Lake Road, and there’s the dead fast food place just south of the bank.
There’s the big empty store next to Ho-Ho Grand Buffet in the old plaza, and right around the corner from that there’s the empty building where Wal-Mart used to be.
And of course there’s the empty Chase-Pitkin building in the Wegmans plaza
Instead of doing something to fill those empty store fronts in prime business locations, the Sweden Town Council lets the Town Assessor grants millions of dollars in tax exemptions to a fast food joint, a snack bar, two gas stations, and a lumber yard.
Something is bass-ackwards here.
Economic development in the Town of Sweden is done helter-skelter because no one on the Town Council ever seems to think about it.
The members of the Sweden Town Council don’t do their homework, so important things that should get done don’t get done – like strategic planning.
There’s no plan. Nobody is minding the store, so grant money for development is spent willy-nilly instead of being spent with a goal in mind.
Nobody in Sweden seemed to realize this until February, when the Town Council was discussing the proposed 481-M tax exemption for 60 Clinton Street.
That’s when everybody in town learned that none of the Sweden Town Council members had any idea that the Sweden Town Assessor, Tony Eaffaldano, grants millions of dollars in 485-B business tax exemptions to properties in Sweden.
Everyone on the Sweden Town Council thought that all the business tax exemptions in the town were Comida tax exemptions granted by Monroe County.
Supervisor Rob Carges summed up the situation when he made this bone-headed statement, at the very beginning of the February 11th Town Council Meeting.
“The other issue in that I’ve heard a little bit about is tax breaks for every other operation for whatever else, veterans’ benefits, or whatever. We have as a town, very little say in any of those. Many of those county ones were given not with our full approval. It just happens that they are given.”
Nobody on the Town Council batted an eyelash when he said that.
As far as the town Council is concerned, the buck stops here. They get paid to run the town, maybe it’s time for them to start earning their pay checks.
According to the town budget, there are 38 different types of tax exemptions in the town and they are all neatly listed on one page.
The biggest exemptions are for property owned by New York State, followed by school properties, and property owned by religious organizations.
The Comida grants, which Supervisor Carges and Council woman Windus-Cook complained about, are the fourth largest group of tax exemptions, at $13,812,300.
The 177 tax exemptions for the aged were the fifth highest exemption, $6,871,213.
It’s pretty easy to figure out why most of the tax exemptions were granted. For example, properties owned by the Historical Society, the Cemeteries, agricultural properties, as well as medical and dental facilities have tax exemptions.
But one tax exemption jumped off the page. Business Exemptions were the sixth highest type of tax exemption listed in the town budget, $6,417,530.
However, nobody on the Sweden Town Council had any idea who granted the exemptions and why.
Supervisor Rob Carges didn’t know. Deputy Supervisor Bob Muesebeck didn’t know. Councilman Don Roberts didn’t know, and neither did Councilwomen Becky Donohue or Danielle Windus-Cook.
It was right there in the budget, but they had no idea what a Code 47610/47611 Business Exemption was or who granted the seven exemptions worth six and a half million dollars of the Sweden tax payers’ money.
Make a new plan, Stan
The Sweden Town Council doesn’t have a strategic plan for economic development, so that’s why the Town Assessor winds up granting millions of dollars in tax exemptions to a fast food joint, a snack bar, two gas stations, and a lumber yard.
The law gives them the right and the power to create a plan, but the Sweden Town Council has failed to do so.
But everybody makes mistakes, we’re all human. One of the things that distinguishes good leaders from bad leaders, is that good leaders admit their mistakes and do something to fix them.
Paragraphs 9 (a) and 9 (b) of Section 485-B of the New York State Real Property Tax Law give the Sweden Town Council the right to create a plan “concerning the various types of business real property which should be granted eligibility for an exemption.”
A town may, by local law, … establish a board to be known as the industrial and commercial incentive board. The membership and composition of such board shall be set forth in the local law or resolution.
(b) The industrial and commercial incentive board shall present a plan to the appointing local legislative body concerning the various types of business real property which should be granted eligibility for an exemption pursuant to subdivision one of this section.
Such plan shall make recommendations concerning the applicability of the exemption to specific sectors and subsectors….
In addition, such plan shall identify specific geographic areas within which such exemptions should be offered.
In developing the plan required by this paragraph, the board shall consider the planning objectives of each municipality within which such exemptions may be offered, the necessity of the exemption to the attraction or retention of such business and the economic benefit to the area of providing exemptions to various types of businesses.
If the members of the Sweden Town Council want to save their reputations after the 60 Clinton Street fiasco, they can start by passing a resolution creating an industrial and commercial incentive board, and defining what the membership of that board will be.
Then the Sweden Town Council needs to direct the new incentive board to identify the types of businesses that will create jobs and broaden the tax base in the Town of Sweden Town.
Finally, the Sweden Town Council needs to direct Tax Assessor Town Assessor, Tony Eaffaldano that he must only grant the 485-B tax exemptions, in order to those businesses.