Now that the caucuses are over and the primaries are decided I would like to start focusing on the issues that will form the basis of my campaign platform. First and foremost of these issues being the need for greater emphasis on economic development.
An objective of our 2008 Saugerties Economic Development Strategy is to “create additional living wage jobs,” yet it seems we’ve made little headway in accomplishing that goal.
It seems that we have turned our attention to tourism as the prime driver of our local economy. This sector certainly forms an integral part of our overall plan, but focusing so heavily on the tourist trade, to the exclusion of other objectives, could prove unwise. Let’s face it, in an economic downturn the travel and entertainment industries are some of the first to suffer. Having all of our eggs in the tourism basket does not bode well for the town when the economy falters. Additionally, while this sector generates substantial revenue for our retail, food service and entertainment industries, it does not necessarily create a wealth of quality, living wage jobs. We simply cannot grow our tax base through tourism alone.
My economic strategy envisions a broad-based philosophy where we attempt to attract high quality manufacturing, light industrial or technology based businesses to form the core of our local commerce, while simultaneously continuing our quest to make Saugerties a desired tourist destination. Under this scenario we build a firm foundation on businesses less likely to falter in a short-term economic slump and more likely to create living wage jobs, while tourism generates an additional revenue stream, primarily through sales tax receipts, to aid our economic growth and prosperity.
I would propose a strategy that utilizes section 485-b of the Real Property Tax Law to provide short-term, decreasing exemptions to new and expanding businesses. This is not a PILOT program. It simply creates an exemption from the full taxable value of a commercial property, much like homeowners benefit from school tax reductions through the STAR program.
The beauty of this plan is that it costs very little to implement. The only up-front costs would be marketing the program. Businesses seeking to take advantage of this program would still need to go through all application, review and permitting processes in accordance with our present town ordinances. The end result would be that a business eligible for the exemption would receive a 50 percent reduction on assessed value in year one, with a 5 percent decrease in the exemption in each succeeding year until it expires. This arrangement allows a new or expanding business to free up much needed operating capital in those critical first few years of operation.
New York continues to be one of the highest taxed, most regulated states in the country. To overcome this we must find creative ways to aggressively market Saugerties as a great place to set up shop. When elected to the Town Board, I will work diligently with the Economic Development and Tourism committees to create an environment conducive to small business development, thereby broadening the tax base for the benefit of existing businesses and residential property owners alike.