Town of Amherst Council member Mark Manna, and New York State Assemblyman Sean Ryan pushed for reform of New York State’s 485-B property tax exemption. Created in 1976, the 485-B exemption allows owners of properties who construct improvements valued over $10,000, to spread out the amount of increased assessment value of their property over a 10-year period. The tax exemption was created to help out businesses who wanted to improve their property, but did not want to get hit with a huge increase in their assessment, and therefore a huge increase in their property taxes, all at one time. The exemption is spread out over time, allowing the property owner to only pay property taxes on 50% of the assessed value in the first year, and a decreasing amount in subsequent years. Walmart utilized the 485-B exemption for their Amherst location, and will save over $128,000 in property taxes over a 10-year period.

State law allows each county, city, town, village, or school district to create an advisory board for their taxing district, which can designate the types of businesses that should be eligible for the 485-B exemption. The advisory board can also create areas within the taxing district where the 485-B exemption can and cannot be used. Unfortunately, Erie County has not established an advisory board for the 485-B exemption, formally known as an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board. Creation of such a board would require action by the Erie County Legislature. Today, Manna and Ryan wrote to Erie County Legislature Chairwoman Betty Jean Grant urging the creation of an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board for Erie County.

Amherst Town Councilman Mark Manna said “Handing out corporate welfare to the largest company in the world, while Amherst residents are working harder to make ends meet is ludicrous. The 485-B exemption must be reformed so that we can stop handing out big tax breaks to companies that didn’t ask for them, and don’t need them. Erie County can be a leader on this issue, and we need an advisory board to be created right away.”

Assemblyman Sean Ryan said “Our IDA system is not the only entity guilty of giving out tax breaks to big corporations that don’t need them. The 485-B property tax exemption is another example of a system in need of reform. Luckily, there is a mechanism in place that would allow Erie County to decide which businesses, and which areas would be eligible for this tax break. We should not be giving tax breaks to Walmart, plain and simple. The Erie County advisory board should set the rules to say that this tax exemption should be reserved for small businesses who want to invest in their community, and businesses who are paying good wages. Walmart was able to save over $128,000, which would have gone to pay for vital police and fire services, road and bridge construction, and teachers for our schools. Creating an advisory board to oversee the allocation of the 485-B exemption will be a win for our economy and economic fairness, and I urge the Erie County Legislature to act quickly on this issue.

 

Hon. Betty Jean Grant
Chairwoman, Erie County Legislature
92 Franklin Street, 4th Floor
Buffalo, New York 14202

Dear Chairwoman Grant:

We write today concerning a tax break that is being given out in Erie County, and is in desperate need of reform. The 485-B property tax exemption, created in 1976, allows owners of properties who construct improvements valued over $10,000, to spread out the amount of increased assessment value of their property over a 10-year period. For a small business owner who wants to expand their presence in the community, or a manufacturer who pays great wages and benefits and wants to increase their production, the 485-B exemption can help them out, and prevent them from being hit with a huge property tax bill all at once. Unfortunately, huge corporations like Walmart are also using this tax exemption to their benefit.

For the construction of their store in Amherst, Walmart received a 485-B exemption which will save them over $128,000 in property taxes over a 10-year period. Out of all the businesses in Erie County, and across this state, Walmart is certainly not in need of a tax break. We should not be giving out tax breaks to companies like Walmart that pay low wages, and make billions in profits every year. Walmart can afford to pay all the property taxes owed for their building. This may seem like a losing battle, but fortunately, there is a solution. State law allows each county, city, town, village, or school district to create an advisory board for their taxing district, which can designate the types of businesses that should be eligible for the 485-B exemption. The advisory board can also create areas within the taxing district where the 485-B exemption can and cannot be used. Unfortunately, Erie County has not established an advisory board for the 485-B exemption, formally known as an Industrial and Commercial Incentive Board. We urge the Erie County Legislature to create an advisory board to help reign in the abuse of the 485-B exemption. Further more, we would urge the advisory board to set the rules so that the 485-B exemption cannot be given to companies like Walmart that pay incredibly low wages, and have more than enough profits to pay their full property tax bills immediately.

The Erie County Legislature should act quickly to reform how the 485-B property tax exemption is handed out in Erie County. We all know that we should not be giving out tax breaks to companies like Walmart. The creating of an advisory board will be a positive step toward real reform. Please let us know if we can be of any assistance in this matter, and we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Mark Manna – Amherst Town Councilman
Sean M. Ryan – Member of Assembly