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Tax-exempt Harriman Campus under scrutiny again
ALBANY -- An ongoing battle between the City of Albany and the state took a new turn today. The city has long argued for more compensation for tax-exempt state buildings within its boundaries. Thursday the tax-exempt Harriman State Office Campus was the battleground. The same industry that put Albany on the map is accused of not helping the city pay the bills. State government buildings circle some 350 acres of the Harriman Campus, which is prime real estate off the tax rolls.
It's the latest edition of "Let's Make a Deal," city and state edition. The coveted prize, almost $12 million a year in lieu of taxes the city hopes its neighbors across the street pay for the uptown Harriman State Office Campus. Assemblywoman Pat Fahy (D-Albany) hopes the PILOT proposal makes the budget.
"Am I optimistic? Yes," Fahy said. "Is it still going to be an uphill battle? Absolutely. But, I think it's a fairness issue."
There has long been speculation about how long state offices would stay or be shifted to here.
"We certainly respect the need for the state to plan for its future," said democrat Mayor Kathy Sheehan. "We need certainty for our taxpayers, for our residents, for our businesses, as we seek to grow and move our city forward."
The PILOT agreement, if adopted, could earn the city additional revenue for the next ten for future construction and improvements. 80% of commercial property in Albany is tax-exempt; most of it is held by the state.
"I really do think that they have a responsibility to be a strong partner," said Mark Eagan. President & CEO of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce. "The residents and businesses that are here are really subsidizing those other operations."
Regardless of how long the state remains a resident between Western and Washington, another plan might work. "I don't think it has to be all or nothing," Eagan said. "There's an opportunity where you could have mixed use, you could have state buildings, you could have private buildings."
Albany blames some of its $16 million budget deficit on all that tax-exempt land. At least one of those deed-holders says it wants to do good by its town.
"We do sit here in the city as the medical center has using its services for years day in and day out," said James Barba, President & CEO of Albany Medical Center. "Get us together, put us in a room, so that we too can at long last assist the city with its issues."The state Division of Budget responded to the news today. In a statement, a spokesman acknowledged that city has asked the State Fiscal Restructuring Board to work with them on a plan to address problems with their finances. In the meantime, "it would be premature to entertain remedies until this plan is completed."