The Yorktown Town Board unanimously approved a tax abatement program last week with the goal of helping new small businesses in town survive the early pitfalls that often lead to failure.
Under section 485b of the New York State Real Property Tax Law, any business that invests money to physically improve its location will receive a tax break on the increased assessed value that stems from the improvements. The abatement will decrease over 10 years and the base property taxes will not be affected or reduced.
“It’s a win-win for the town, as well as the public,” Town Attorney Michael McDermott said at last week’s meeting.
The program has been discussed by town officials for nearly a year and studied by a five-member Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board selected by the Town Board. The board, which looked at identifying the types of businesses that should be offered limited business exemption credits and the geographical areas where the incentives should be concentrated, issued a report to the Town Board January 9 supporting the program.
Jeff Jankowski, a member of the Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board and the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce, which also wholeheartedly supported the program, said other municipalities have implemented 485b successfully.
“This is not something done in a vacuum. Yorktown needs additional development,” Jankowski said. “We’re looking forward, not backwards.”
Yorktown Supervisor Michael Grace said the first thing any potential business owner asks when they visit Town Hall is how much will the property taxes be. He noted the program affects town, school and county taxes.
“It allows them to get traction in the early years when it’s hard to make money,” Grace said. “We are committed to moving Yorktown forward and this program will not only help new businesses in town but signals yet again that Yorktown is open for business.”
Several residents who spoke at a public hearing prior to the board adopting the program expressed skepticism that it would achieve the results town officials desire.
“The Town Board should be careful not to give away the store, or future tax revenue,” said former Councilwoman Susan Siegel.
“My biggest fear is the whole concept of trying to help small businesses in Yorktown will be undermined by this,” said Melvyn Tanzman, who has announced his intentions to run for supervisor. “I think we need to have some planning in this town. I don’t think having a tax incentive across the board provides that type of planning.”
Councilman Tom Diana, a small business owner, said the program provides the town with another tool to attract more businesses and increase the commercial tax base.
“We’re not recreating the wheel here,” said Diana, who noted a similar incentive was given to the Jefferson Valley Mall. “Whenever we can support our local businesses here in town it’s a good thing.”
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