State Senator James Skoufis is fired up about the Town of Montgomery Industrial Development Agency, or IDA, and its role in the building of a new Amazon warehouse.

“If our taxpayers are subsidizing your project, you better damn [well] be using our neighbors as the people building that project that we’re subsidizing,” he said.

What You Need To Know

  • State Senator James Skoufis is calling for the dissolution of the Town of Montgomery IDA

  • He cited its acceptance of a waiver that would allow non-local labor at the Amazon warehouse construction site

  • A grassroots group thinks the board should stay, but notes it needs reappointments

The town’s IDA has just granted Amazon its fifth waiver to bypass local labor. In this latest case, painters from Pennsylvania were hired to work on the project. In a letter to the IDA two weeks ago, Senator Skoufis asked them to reject that waiver.

“We’re giving you this tax break, with the agreement that you have to use local labor. And so now, for the fifth time, the IDA has granted a waiver for them to use non-local labor,” said Skoufis.

But they didn’t reject the waiver, in a move that Skoufis calls the final straw. He says he will now seek to dissolve the town’s IDA.

Residents Protecting Montgomery, a grassroots group that has opposed what it calls over-development, as well as PILOT program tax breaks often given to these warehouses, says that something needs to change. They don’t think the board should go away, but agrees there are issues.

“The problem with the town of Montgomery IDA right now, as we believe, is that there are too many conflicts of interest that sit on the board. We believe that reappointments should be made to that board,” said Don Berger, RPM's co-founder.

Berger thinks that some of the members serving on the board have clear ties to other entities; Treasurer Matthew Stoddard is also the president of Iron Workers Local 417, and IDA Executive Director Conor Eckert previously worked for Orange County Economic Development, one part of the Orange County Partnership.

RPM's other co-founder, Karina Tipton, says that granting tax breaks and local labor waivers isn’t helping Orange County taxpayers.

“They’re supposed to act as an entity whose mission includes advancing job opportunities, the health, the general prosperity, and the economic welfare of the people of the state of New York. And if they can’t do that with local labor, I don’t really know how they expect to accomplish that,” said Tipton.

Montgomery Town Supervisor Brian Maher says he disagrees with Skoufis that his town’s IDA needs to be dissolved, and that IDAs are an important economic tool for municipalities.

“I am eager to debate on the value of IDAs and the things that they can bring to any community or county, to put ourselves in charge of our own economic development future, and give us the tools that we need, if done the right way,” said Maher.

But Skoufis says that having two IDAs to oversee projects allows big companies to shop around.

“A project, a big corporation, will go to the county IDA, and they’ll get a sense of what kind of incentive they can get. ‘OK, a 10 year property tax break, worth $10 million,’ ” Skoufis said. “Then they’ll go to the town IDA and they’ll say, ‘Oh, well, the county IDA is giving us 10 years and $10 million; can you do better?’ ‘OK, we’ll give you 15 years and $20 million.’

“And it’s a race to the bottom. Who’s the loser? The taxpayers.”

And he has the ability to seek the dissolution of the town of Montgomery IDA.

“The very same way that it was created, which was through passing a provision, a bill, it can be undone,” Skoufis said. “And just as the state senator in 1971 seemingly supported this concept, the state senator, me, in 2021, thinks this is a failed experiment, and that the town of Montgomery IDA is not doing right by its taxpayers and needs to go away.”