Tough Questions for Head of Clarence IDA about Tax Breaks

4:58 PM, May 11, 2012   |    comments
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CLARENCE, N.Y.-- We're following up a 2 On-Your-Side Investigation into what many say is simply corporate welfare.

The focus is on tax breaks given to businesses that we're all paying for.  The groups that give out these tax breaks are called Industrial Development Agencies, or IDAs.  Erie County has five of them, located in Amherst, Clarence, Concord, Hamburg and Lancaster.   

Our recent story focused on companies who have been given these tax breaks by IDAs, only to create a handful of jobs, some of which aren't even full time.  Part of our story highlighted a popular local donut shop that was given eight thousand dollars in tax breaks to expand into Clarence.  That's money that could have eased the burden on local homeowners.

For weeks, we've been calling Clarence Town Supervisor David Hartzell, who's also the head of the Town's IDA, to ask about the tax breaks given to Paula's Donuts, which recently expanded by opening a second location in the town.

Hartzell never returned our calls, so our Scott Brown tracked him down before the IDA met Thursday night. Scott persuaded him to talk before the meeting started. Scott asked whether he thought Paula's Donuts would have set up shop there with an $8,000 subsidy?

"I think an $8,000 subsidy for getting a company like Paula's Donuts in is cheap," said Hartzell.

"You'll see the other towns spent 200, 300, 400-- in the case of Amherst, $500,000 to create as many jobs as Clarence did for spending 8,000," he added.

Brown then asked, "Do you think Industrial Development Agencies should be subsidizing jobs at donut shops-- low paying jobs?"

Hartzell: "Absolutely. And in the case of Clarence, I think they should. "If you look at Clarence, we need obviously high paying jobs, like Wilson Greatbatch, and we need low paying jobs like Paula's Donuts. So I think it's good for both."

Hartzell argues that his town's IDA functions now not just for industrial development-- because manufacturing jobs are hard to come by these days-- but commercial development as well. He says criticism from the County Executive and others is unfair.

"I would say to Assemblyman Ryan and Mr. Poloncarz, if you have a problem with the IDA policy, get the heads of all the IDA's together and let's improve it and let's work together," said Hartzell.

"Let's just not trash it because you don't like it or because you're upset with some of the provisions in it. Let's work together to make it better," added Hartzell.


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