Seacomm withdraws request for PILOT from Massena school board
Friday, February 7, 2014 - 6:02 am

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- Seacomm Federal Credit Union will not get a tax break from the Massena Central School District on its upcoming Stearns Street expansion. The Board of Education tabled voting to approve a payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) deal last month.

“Seacomm asked us to drop it … they know they’re not going to get it,” board vice president Ron Faucher said.

Board member Leonard Matthews moved to withdraw the motion from being tabled and drop it. The board voted unanimously in favor with no discussion.

Seacomm is looking at expanding its 30 Stearns Street location by 15,700 square-feet to consolidate all its Massena operations and needs approval from the town, school and village board before the IDA can give them the break. The IDA are allowed by law to convey their tax-exempt status on new manufacturing businesses. A project such as Seacomm’s requires approval of all three boards, Kelly said, since it doesn’t meet that criterion.

Of the three taxing entities in Massena, only the Town Council granted the tax abatement. The 10-year deal calls for Seacomm to pay the taxes on the pre-expansion assessed value, plus 10 percent of the new value for five years. They will pay the current taxes plus 50 percent of the new assessment for the second five years and pay full taxes after a decade. It would amount to a 70-percent tax cut.

The village’s Board of Trustees denied the break, citing among other things an anticipation of decreased tax revenues because of the Alcoa east plant closure. The town’s vote was in December, about a month prior to Alcoa’s announcement.

The school board voiced mixed opinions on the PILOT when they discussed it last month.

Board president John Boyce said the deal could mean as much as $750,000 in taxes being withheld from the school district’s coffers. He fears this year they may have to use as much as $270,000 in fund balance to offset a tax increase. He felt especially weary given recent state aid cuts and the pending 2014-2015 budget process.

The current property is assessed at $1,258,000; Seacomm is anticipating a roughly $3.5 million assessment once the expansion is complete. Currently, the town school and village each get about $59,000 per year in taxes from Seacomm, Patrick Kelly of the county IDA said last month.

Board member Loren Fountaine said he throught the PILOT is a great idea. Seacomm CEO Scott Wilson told the board the expansion will create 18 living-wage jobs and help retain over 100.

“If we can create 18 full-time jobs in this community … you’re talking about $900,000 in [annual] salaries,” he said.

Wilson said the savings from the PILOT deal will allow Seacomm to create the jobs more quickly, but Boyce wasn’t buying the argument.