Tax breaks for businesses are costing NY school districts millions, advocates say

February 8, 2023

Times Union: Tax breaks for businesses are costing NY school districts millions, advocates say

ALBANY — Hundreds of New York public schools are being shortchanged by tax breaks that benefit private businesses, a handful of Democratic lawmakers and good government advocates asserted Wednesday, pointing to a new report that shows at least $1.8 billion of local property taxes that would have funded school districts instead went to Industrial Development Agencies.

Property owned by Industrial Development Agencies is exempt from local property taxes, a move meant to promote the economic development of local communities, particularly one that has historically remained underdeveloped. IDAs funnel the subsidies to corporations as an incentive for them moving into a specific area, with the expectation that the economic value they provide in the form of jobs and other benefits will compensate local communities and counties for any lost revenue. There are more than 100 IDAs in the state, operated either through counties or cities.

But advocates and good government groups argue that conversely, allowing companies to skirt property tax payments has cost school districts across the state millions of dollars in revenue per student – particularly in districts made up of a larger share of students of color.

“School districts are engaged in a constant battle to make sure their funding levels stay high and we’ve worked hard to put more money into education,” said state Sen. Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat. “But no matter how much we invest in education, and we fill their coffers, there’s a hidden problem. Every year, IDAs across the state waive taxes meant to go to schoolchildren.”

Read the full story at Times Union.