IDA tax breaks cost schools millions

IDA tax breaks cost schools millions
Most districts count on property taxes for a significant part of their budget. Some school systems forgo millions of dollars every year. Three districts in WNY are losing out what amounts to $2,000 per student, or more.
By J. Dale Shoemaker
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Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories on industrial development agencies. Tomorrow, we report on “perverse incentives” and other shortcomings in IDA programs.

Any time Susan McGee’s children want to join an activity outside of the classroom — be it sports, music or other extracurriculars — it means one thing: a fundraiser.

Raising money for extracurriculars may seem routine for a small, struggling Rust Belt city like Dunkirk, where McGee’s children attend school.

But there’s another factor at play: The Dunkirk City School District loses out on an average of $5 million in revenue every year thanks to tax breaks granted by the Chautauqua County Industrial Development Agency.

“It’s just exhausting,” said McGee, who helps her children fundraise for uniforms, musicals, field trips and more. “As an economically depressed area, Dunkirk in particular, putting so much of it on the shoulders of the families is really difficult.”