As a concerned individual living near the proposed Zaida Project, it is important to speak out about the significant burdens a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) program could impose on our community. To make matters worse this PILOT program will be orchestrated utilizing the Herkimer County IDA, it won’t be handled directly by our City at a local level. While they might seem like a fair compromise at first glance, PILOT programs come with several hidden costs that we as a community cannot afford to overlook.

PILOT programs as their name implies are used to incentivize a prospective project. Worst of all is that they are individually negotiated. Unlike regular property taxes, like the rest of us pay, that follow clear guidelines. This means the amount our local government receives can vary widely depending on the negotiation of the deal. As a result, we as a City may be unable to support essential public services like our schools, police, and fire departments. This uncertainty makes it hard to plan for the future and ensure our community remains viable. While a very few people walk away with a fat check, the rest of us are left holding the bag. By the way they can last 40 years.

PILOT programs often create inequities within a community. Tax-exempt entities benefiting from these arrangements rely on the use of public services without paying their fair share. This forces the rest of us, including homeowners and small businesses, to pick up the slack. As our property taxes go up to compensate for this shortfall, it becomes even harder for an already struggling community. This increased financial pressure can widen the gap between different parts of our community, creating a sense of unfairness and division. The exact opposite of the sales pitch we were provided.

Another major concern is the lack of transparency and accountability in these programs. PILOT agreements are usually made behind closed doors, with little input or oversight from the public. This smoke and mirrors can lead to suspicions of favoritism or corruption, undermining our trust in local government. Without clear information on these deals, it’s difficult for us to understand their full impact on our community and to hold decision-makers accountable.

Managing these PILOT agreements also requires a lot of time and resources from our local officials. The process of negotiating, monitoring, and enforcing these deals can be complex and costly. This administrative burden diverts attention and funds away from other critical areas that need our support. In some cases, the cost of managing these programs can even outweigh the benefits, leaving us worse off than before.

PILOT programs can disrupt long-term planning and development. Rezoning residential zoning ordinances now is just the tip of the iceberg. By giving special treatment to certain entities, our local government might open the door to encourage land use that isn’t in the best interest of our community. This can distort the real estate market and damage current homeowners while also preventing new, tax-paying businesses and homeowners from moving here. Stifling this City now with even more burdens is not how we as a community effectively grow.

While PILOT programs might seem like a reasonable solution on the surface, they often bring significant challenges that we must carefully consider. The inconsistencies, inequities, lack of transparency, administrative burdens, and negative impacts on our City development all contribute to making these programs a potential burden for our community. As a concerned citizen, I urge our leaders to think critically about these issues and to prioritize the broader interests of our entire community.

A Concerned Resident,

Bryan Herringshaw
Little Falls, New York