Report: Nassau, Suffolk IDAs get high marks for transparency

03/08/2017

By James T. Madore, Newsday

Two industrial development agencies on Long Island are among the nation’s most transparent government agencies that award tax breaks to businesses, thanks to reporting requirements from New York State, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

Two industrial development agencies on Long Island are among the nation’s most transparent government agencies that award tax breaks to businesses, thanks to reporting requirements from New York State, according to a report to be released Wednesday.

The Nassau County IDA and the Suffolk IDA tied for No. 3 in terms of information available on the internet about companies receiving property tax breaks, the amount of the breaks and the jobs tied to those breaks, said Good Jobs First, a watchdog group based in Washington.

One economic development program in New York City and another in Austin, Texas, held the top two spots.

The local IDAs each placed fifth in available data about sales-tax exemptions on the purchase of construction materials, equipment, fixtures and other supplies for expansion projects.

In each case, the data is available on the websites of the office of state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Suffolk IDA.

Good Jobs First, which has been critical of tax breaks for businesses, looked at development programs in the nation’s 50 largest cities and counties. The examination was limited to tax incentives awarded by local governments and whether and how they were disclosed on the internet.

The group found that more than half of the development programs studied do not disclose the names of companies receiving property tax abatements and other incentives, including initiatives in Boston, Charlotte, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco.

“Counties in New York State rank high due to the state’s strong level of disclosure of local data,” said the report’s author, Kasia Tarczynska.

The state comptroller and state Authorities Budget Office each require IDAs to file annual reports of their activities.

The data then can be downloaded from the comptroller’s website, at nwsdy.li/ida, revealing the names and addresses of businesses receiving tax breaks, the jobs tied to the aid and other information.

Tarczynska noted the comptroller’s website provides the yearly property-tax subsidy amounts, but not the total approved subsidy over multiple years.The amount of sales tax exemptions is not disclosed, she said.

Tarczynska also said the Suffolk IDA website has annual reports filed with the Authorities Budget Office, which list all businesses receiving aid but not the type of aid awarded. Nassau IDA officials said they also post ABO reports on the agency’s website.

The Nassau and Suffolk IDAs weren’t included in a 2013 study by Good Jobs First because only larger population centers were examined, said Philip Mattera, the group’s research director.

Nassau IDA executive director Joseph J. Kearney said the ranking was a result of the agency board’s commitment over eight years “to provide full transparency in all of our transactions. We are grateful that [the board’s] efforts have been recognized.”