Should SU pay taxes on a fitness center & bookstore?

The Miner Administration is balking at a proposal to grant tax exempt status for a project for Syracuse University.

SU is working with private developer Thomas Valenti of the Cameron Group to build a $20 million bookstore and fitness center with retail shops on University Avenue. Valenti presented his plan for the project to members of the Syracuse Common Council's Economic Development Committee Wednesday afternoon. Valenti told the councilors though the project is a private development, Syracuse University wants the book store and fitness center portions to be declared tax exempt. He says SU is an educational institution and those facilities would be used primarily by SU faculty, students and staff.

Speaking on behalf of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, Director of Administration Bill Ryan told CNY Central's Jim Kenyon, that granting the property tax exemption may not be good for the taxpayers of Syracuse who would pay for providing police, fire and other services to the facility. Ryan pointed out that 60 percent of the properties in Syracuse are already tax exempt at a time when the city is facing a "revenue problem" and is forced to make cuts in personnel and services.

Economic Development Committee Chair Kathleen Joy says she is "excited" by the project. She feels the city can work out a PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement to help defray the lack of property tax revenue. Joy also says the land on which the book store and fitness center sits is owned by SU and is tax exempt already. She says the city would also gain sales tax revenue from the 7,000 square feet of retail space which would not be tax exempt.

Ryan says the Miner Administration is negotiating with Syracuse University and the developer. The developer would like to have a property tax agreement in place by the time construction is slated to begin this summer.

Valenti hopes the book store and fitness center would be open for business by the fall of 2012.