Legislature Democrats target tax exemption


Democrats in the Monroe County Legislature say that they want a review of a state-authorized property tax exemption that benefits various businesses.

The exemption doesn't have a simple name, but is authorized through section 485-b of the state's property tax laws. Any commercial, industrial, or retail business that invests a minimum of $10,000 into a building — including renovations or new construction — can claim exemption on the investment, which phases out over 10 years, according to Legislature Democrats. In 2013, there were 346 properties claiming exemptions on $83 million worth of exemptions, which cost the county $766,000, Democrats said during a press conference this afternoon.

The county opted in to the exemption program in the 1970's, says Democratic Legislator Paul Haney. But the law also allows for the county government to limit eligibility to certain businesses or geographic areas, better aligning it with local priorities, he says.

"This is sort of a unique opportunity in state law," Haney said during the press conference.

Haney has submitted legislation that would establish an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board to review how the county uses the incentive. It would develop a plan for use of the incentives and recommend to the Legislature which — if any — eligibility restrictions it should enact. The Legislature's Agenda/Charter committee will take up the proposal when it meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 17, in the Legislature chambers, 39 West Main Street.

Haney said that some good projects have made use of the credit, including the Genesee Brew House and Gleason Works. But the exemptions often go to big box retailers, who choose locations based on market factors, he said. Democratic Minority Leader Carrie Andrews pointed to the Brockport Walmart, which had $3 million worth of exemptions on its $13.7 million assessment in 2013.