Will the Ulster County IDA Override the Board of Education’s Vote to Reject the Kingstonian PILOT?

CALL TO ACTION:  Families who have school age children in the KSCD, as well as Ulster County residents who pay Kingston City school tax (which is 60% of the KSCD population), please CLICK ON THIS LINK to send a letter to support the Board of Education’s decision to reject the Kingstonian’s unprecedented 25-year, $21 + million PILOT and request that the UCIDA follow its own policy requiring the approval of all impacted agencies for a deviated PILOT in order to take any further action. 

By Rebecca Martin

At the December 2, 2020 Kingston City School District’s (KSCD) Board of Education (BOE) meeting, the Board trustees rejected a (revised) unprecedented 25-year, $21 + million dollar Kingstonian PILOT request by a 6-3 vote.  Thoughtful, factual testimony about the “PILOT” (and not the “project,” the completely misleading talking point that some of our elected officials and the developer has been pushing) was provided by trustees Robin Jacobowitz PhD, Cathy Collins PhD, Priscilla Lowe, Herb Lamb, James Shaugnessy and James Michael.

Why is this significant?

The Board of Education is one of three taxing agencies – which represent tens of thousands of taxpayers in Ulster County – which would be impacted by the Kingstonian developer’s request for an unprecedented 25-year payment-in-lieu-of-taxes (PILOT) worth more than $21 million dollars for a parking garage (located in an opportunity zone no less) that, based on Kingston’s zoning code, would mainly provide parking for the developer’s high end housing project and luxury boutique hotel. The other two agencies are the Ulster County Legislature, which passed a newly crafted PILOT agreement by a vote of 17-6 (The Ulster County Executive branch commissioned a report by the National Development Council (NDC), who tweaked the PILOT in order to sweeten the pot for the school board) and the City of Kingston Common Council (which passed the original PILOT agreement, that would have proven to be even more harmful to the Kingston City School District, unanimously). 

We’ve learned a lot over these past months about the concerning use of PILOTs in Ulster County and the negative impacts that they have on annual school budgets that must come under the tax levy limit.  “Kingston City School District is funded by property taxes and state aid,” said James Shaugnessy, president of the Board of Education. “Property taxes are levied against the Full Taxable Value of nonexempt real estate…and if the (Kingstonian) project is subject to a PILOT agreement, then the new taxable value is never included.”

The Ulster County Industrial Development Agency (UCIDA) Amends its Policy to Allow Deviated PILOTs for Mixed-Use Housing Projects and Private Developers

On August 12, the UCIDA revised its Housing Project policy, authorizing their agency to grant tax breaks to “any housing project, or any mixed-use project that includes a housing or residential component, that has received the prior approval from the governing board of Ulster County and each town, village, city and school district in which the housing project is located. (emphasis added). This change allows the Kingstonian developers to “deviate” to the tune of 25 years from the traditional matix, which is meant to encourage good economic development and measurable job creation, or real public benefits such as affordable or senior housing. In addition, it opens the flood gates to any private developer who would now be able to submit the same request.

Will the Ulster County IDA Override the Board of Education’s Vote to Reject the Kingstonian PILOT?  

In a September 28 post by KingstonCitizens.org “The Complication of the Ulster County IDA Recent Policy Change and Public Hearing Date on October 1”  we warned our community of the UCIDA’s new housing policy for mixed-use projects that implied that an approval for a deviated PILOT would require “prior approval from the governing board of Ulster County and each town, village, city and school district in which the housing project is located.” However, it also says that “…in the event that the Agency is not able to obtain the consents of all the affected Tax Jurisdictions to such deviation, the Agency may enter into such a PILOT Agreement that deviates from the policy set forth herein without the consents of such affected Tax Jurisdictions.(emphasis added)  In other words, if the UCIDA doesn’t get the answer they want, they can override a dissenting agency even if that agency stands to lose the most, such as the school district in this case. 

When our concerns were checked with the UCIDA Chief Executive Officer Rose Woodworth by a local publication, she replied – and on record – that the agency’s policy of mixed-use housing projects and deviated PILOTs would need to get approval from all participating taxing jurisdictions, and that without those approvals they would not move forward.  

Several months later, during the November BOE meeting at which Woodworth was a guest, and during which she received pushback from the majority of board trustees on the 25-year PILOT’s terms, she was asked squarely whether or not the PILOT would need the approval of all taxing jurisdictions to move forward. Woodworth said that she couldn’t answer that question for the board.  Although their internal policy may require all taxing authorities approval, there was no such requirement under NY State law.  

What happens next?

In July, the City of Kingston’s Common Council was the first of the three agencies to review the PILOT terms publically. They went on to approve the developer’s original terms, a 25-year 100% tax exempt PILOT worth $30.6 million dollars.  Since late October, the new PILOT terms have gone in front of both the Ulster County Legislature and the Board of Education.  According to the UCIDA, the Common Council will be required to vote again this time, on the revised PILOT terms. In the City of Kingston, all resolutions must go before an assigned committee (in this case, the Council’s Finance Committee) before going to the floor for a full council vote.  Neither occurred in December. 

However, if the UCIDA can approve the deviated PILOT with or without the consent of all three impacted agencies, then they could choose to not only override the Board of Education’s decision but also rationalize that because of the Kingston Common Council’s unanimous approval of the original PILOT terms, a revote wouldn’t be necessary.  This would be unfortunate, as it would be in the community’s best interests for the Council to have to face their constituents and re-vote, following the BOE’s rejection of the PILOT. (**See Note Below)

We don’t know whether or not the Kingstonian PILOT will be voted on at the UCIDA’s next meeting on December 16. Keep an eye on their meeting page for when the agenda is posted. Until then, you can submit the letter in our “call to action” to support the Kingston Board of Education and to enforce a fair and transparent process.

CALL TO ACTION:  Families who have school age children in the KSCD, as well as Ulster County residents who pay Kingston City school tax (which is 60% of the KSCD population), please CLICK ON THIS LINK to send a letter to support the Board of Education’s decision to reject the Kingstonian’s unprecedented 25-year, $21 + million PILOT and request that the UCIDA follow its own policy requiring the approval of all impacted agencies for a deviated PILOT in order to take any further action. 

**NOTE: Since we published this post, we have learned that since the Board of Education rejected the revised Kingstonian PILOT terms, the Kingston City Council will not be required to revote. At this time, it is now the the UCIDA as to whether they will approve the PILOT agreement or not.

1 thought on “Will the Ulster County IDA Override the Board of Education’s Vote to Reject the Kingstonian PILOT?

  1. I wish you would stop using the word “override.” The proper term is “ignore.” “Override” makes it sound like the Kingston BOE is a decision-making body on the PILOT, that the PILOT is dead unless the IDA exercises some power over the BOE. That’s not true. The BOE is only able to say “we don’t want this done, even the improved deal will still harm the district.” It’s input, that is all. There is only one decision-making authority on this and it is the IDA.

    I agree with what you’re doing — the Kingstonian is a bad, gentrifying, taxpayer-subsidized project that will harm the quality of life of existing residents and harm the school budget. I agree with what the BOE did, and I did the same thing twice when I was on the New Paltz BOE, and in both cases, our opposition was a factor in the developers withdrawing. But you should not be misleading your readers and supporters into thinking the BOE is a decision maker on the project, and that IDA approval would constitute an “override.” If any legal action is to be brought against the IDA approving the PILOT, it has to be based on finding some impropriety on the IDA’s part in granting the award. Ignoring the school district’s opposition is not impropriety. Bad idea, but within the law. It could not be grounds for a lawsuit.

    People need to know that so they can help bring the appropriate response when the IDA approves the deal, which it will.

    Thanks.

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