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Committee upset about Dunkirk PILOT agreement with Clarion

OBSERVER File Photo A 35-year-old Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement between the city of Dunkirk and the Clarion Hotel was discussed by the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee last week.

A 35-year-old Payment In Lieu Of Taxes agreement between the city of Dunkirk and the Clarion Hotel is upsetting some county legislators.

During the legislature’s Audit and Control Committee, members failed to pass a resolution which would correct a property tax roll.

According to the resolution, a county property tax was levied on the parcel where the Clarion Hotel sits for the 2021 fiscal year in the amount of $29,973, however, the parcel is subject to a PILOT agreement with the city of Dunkirk’s Industrial Development Agency.

Todd Button, first deputy budget director, said the Clarion Hotel received a PILOT from Dunkirk back in 1985, which has continued to be renewed on a regular basis. The agreement permits payments to the city of Dunkirk, but not to Chautauqua County.

Button discovered the PILOT agreement after an error.

“The assessor removed the PILOT exemption from the property in error which generated the 2021 tax bill,” he told committee members.

The PILOT agreement expired in June 2020, explained Button, and would have been renewed except COVID caused a delay.

Button recommended that the county investigate it. “I just find it odd that Dunkirk has its own PILOT agreement with these people and the county gets nothing on this, so somebody may want to look into that one,” he said.

Button said he talked to Rich Dixon with the county Industrial Development Agency. He was told that this agreement was put in place when cities negotiated PILOTs instead of the county.

Legislator Terry Niebel, R-Sheridan, said he supported the resolution, since it was an error, but added, “I do think our legal department ought to be involved as far as the extension on the PILOT.”

Legislator Jay Gould, R-Ashville, asked how long the agreement can be renewed. “That’s a good question,” responded Chairman Chuck Nazzaro, D-Jamestown.

Legislator Mark Odell, R-Brocton is also a member of the county IDA board of directors. He said COVID has not stopped other PILOT agreements, so he sought more clarification as well.

Due to the questions raised, Gould, Nazzaro, and Legislator Tom Harmon, R-Silver Creek all voted against the resolution, which caused it to fail in committee.

The resolution will still go before the full county Legislature, because it was approved by the Administrative Services Committee. The legislature will vote on the tax correction Wednesday.

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