Jobs vs. Taxes: Afton residents, IDA face off over tax break

AFTON – There’s no harm in a private company asking for a tax break, some Afton residents say, but there is harm in an unelected body giving one to a company that doesn’t need it.

Others argue that if such an incentive can create and maintain jobs, it’d be harmful to a community not to offer one.

“We need the jobs,” said Afton tax payer Matt Guokas. “This is a useful tool to create jobs and maintain jobs.”

Wagner Lumber, an Owego-based company looking to purchase the Pomeroy saw mill in the Town of Afton, is requesting a tax abatement from the Chenango County Industrial Development Agency. Commonly known as a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) agreement, the deal would save the company roughly $161,000 in sales and property tax over the next 10 years.

The IDA is likely to vote whether or not to grant Wagner’s request at its monthly meeting this morning.

At a second public hearing Monday night on the issue, Afton town board member Mary Jo Long said it’s alarming that such deals can be granted without authorization from the town’s citizens or elected officials.

“Who should decide these kinds of questions?” asked Long. “It should be a decision made by people and their elected officials, not an unelected body like the IDA is.”

The IDA, a board appointed by the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, is authorized by the state to grant such tax exemptions without public vote to industrial businesses that it judges will create or retain jobs.

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