OSWEGO — The Oswego County Legislature will shift funds previously designated for the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency into the county coffers in part to cover the local share of a state lakeshore protection program.
The resolution, approved during the county Legislature’s virtual meeting last week, allows the county to recoup the 10 percent of payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) that in the past had been earmarked for the County of Oswego Industrial Development Agency (COIDA). County officials cited an anticipated negative economic impact of around $11 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and noted the funds would be used to pay the county’s 5 percent share of projects funded through the state Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), which funds lakeshore protection and improvement projects.
Legislator Tim Stahl, R-Oswego Town, said the local share of the REDI projects is 5 percent, which will go to projects including stabilizing the shoreline at the county-owned Camp Hollis.
“This is going to allow us to use that money to do that directly and not have to use that somewhere else in the budget,” Stahl said. “As everybody knows, this is a bit of a tough budgetary time. This is going to give us an alternate way of funding something we have to fund.
COIDA, the county’s economic development arm founded in 1973, previously received 10 percent of PILOT payments up to $2.5 million annually to use for job creation and retention activities. With the resolution, the so-called alternative allocation was abolished and the money would be directed to the county.
Morris Sorbello, R-Granby, was the only legislator to vote against the resolution. The longtime lawmaker said he understood the reasoning behind the county recouping the PILOT funds temporarily to fill the anticipated budget gap, but disagreed with the open-ended nature of the resolution.
“If it’s bad (this year), we take it out this year,” he said. “According to this resolution, we’re taking it out, period, unless we reinstate it at some other time.”
Stahl said COIDA still has $6 to 7 million available, with most of that money committed to projects at the former Nestle site in Fulton and the industrial park in Phoenix.
“There is still at least a million or two left in that fund to be used for additional projects by the fine folks at the IDA,” Stahl said. “I don’t believe that this year that will create a problem for them to handle any of the committed projects that they’re looking to do and will leave some additional monies to be committed in the future.”
Multiple legislators complimented the work COIDA has done, and the resolution easily passed. Officials said the price tag will amount to roughly $200,000 per year.
“I understand all the hard work that the IDA has done in the past, but times are changing and we’re one of the last three counties that function this way,” Legislator Marie Schadt, D-Minetto, said. “I can’t possibly imagine the county would do anything in a harmful way for business going forward.”