Kingston School Board Member James Michael held his week-old grandson Demetrius, making a joke about local builders’ request for a $25 million property tax break over 25 years.
The developers of the $52 million Kingstonian project are promising to share net profits and pay a full tax rate after the 25 years.
“He’ll never see those benefits that are being promised,” Michael said of Demetrius, laughing. “He’ll be done college, right? And the rest of us will be gone.”
What You Need To Know
- School board member James Michael is beginning a new phase in his fight against a massive proposed tax break for developers of the Kingstonian
- Michael says that since the vote has been held, he's now "a concerned citizen"
- The IDA board may vote on the tax break later this month
The Kingstonian project would bring 143 apartments, a parking garage, hotel, promenade, and retail space to Uptown Kingston.
During a visit to his home in December, Michael said he is taking a more aggressive posture toward the tax break request, now that his board already recorded its 6-3 vote against it.
“I’m not a board member on this anymore,” he said. “I’m a concerned citizen.”
He has begun fundraising to help in any legal battles that may arise if the tax break is awarded despite the school board’s rejection.
Originally following its own policy, the Ulster County Industrial Development Authority — the main agency tasked with vetting tax relief requests from developers — required the developers to get their request approved by the three main taxing jurisdictions: the county legislature, the Kingston Common Council, and the school board. The IDA board would then vote to uphold IDA policy.
Only the school board voted against the PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) that IDA officials said would short the school district property levy by about $16 million dollars — more than the amount that would be withheld from the city and county tax levies combined.
Michael and other board members became concerned after several statements by IDA officials hinting the IDA board may choose not to follow its approval policy, voting to approve the tax break despite a rejection by the largest involved taxing jurisdiction.
Developers Brad Jordan and Joe Bonura Jr. said that since they agreed to finance a $17 million parking garage and give it to the city, the tax break is necessary.
“The city wants a new parking garage. The developers are willing to build it. They want the school district to pay for it. It’s as simple as that,” Michael said. “That’s something that is unacceptable. You don’t want to steal money. That [the tax break] is stealing. It’s revenue. It’s robbing children’s educations and handing it out to millionaires and billionaires so they can put up these nice buildings.”
Jordan and Bonura Jr. are asking supporters to attach their names to a pre-written email to the IDA board, so they can quickly show their support during a “now or never situation.”
Opposing activists are taking a similar approach, linking online followers to a ready-to-send email, with all the fields pre-filled so the followers need simply to write their names and hit send.
The IDA board could hold a decisive vote on the tax break during its January 20 meeting. Michael said he will request Jordan, a Kingston native, to split with Bonura Jr., to pursue his own, different project.