Yorktown Faces Potential Negative Fiscal Impacts From Underhill Farms

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At a recent Town Board meeting, Deputy Supervisor Ed Lachterman said “…Underhill Farms will be paying $1 million in taxes. Unfortunately, 800,000 or so is school taxes. Schools are going to do very well with these projects.”

He defended his statement, saying his information came from the town assessor. Regardless of who advised him, Lachterman is mistaken.

I am writing because, as a former Planning Board member, I believe it is important for residents to know the true costs and benefits of development projects. In the case of Unicorn’s Underhill Farms, it will be years before the school district sees financial benefits. I will use Unicorn’s expanded Environmental Assessment Form to make my case.

To understand any development project’s financial impact, you first measure the amount of revenue it brings to a town. Yorktown will waive a significant portion of Unicorn’s taxes under 485B tax abatements and for improvements to the Underhill Avenue/Route 118 intersection. According to Unicorn, Underhill Farms will be assessed a tax of $1,295,297 in the first year. However, it will pay only $788,114 as a result of these abatements.

The second step in measuring impacts requires subtracting the project’s cost in municipal and educational services from actual tax revenue. Underhill Farms will cost the town and school district $710,048. Subtracting this cost from post-abatement revenues shows a net positive impact of $78,000. That’s not doing “very well” when you consider the $78,000 benefit will change to a net loss if Unicorn has underestimated the number of school-age children living at Underhill Farms – or if its assumption that the “… district has available capacity in each school to accommodate” these children is inaccurate.

Since tax abatements under 485B decrease each year, properties provide greater revenue to the town over time. Unicorn estimates Underhill Farms will contribute $1,237,373 in tax revenue after five years. However, their estimate assumes abatements for highway improvements will be zero by that time. This is unlikely to happen.

In 2023, the Town Board approved a resolution limiting Unicorn’s cost for intersection improvements to $627,919, leaving Yorktown to provide future abatements to Unicorn for all remaining construction costs. Under this arrangement, Unicorn profits from building public infrastructure without bidding against other companies, and Yorktown’s taxpayers pay the difference between whatever Unicorn charges and $627,919. What could go wrong?

John M. Flynn
Yorktown Heights

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