Syracuse approves plan to share funds with new land bank

Dec 18, 2012

The Syracuse Common Council voted Monday to give the city's newly formed land bank a loan for startup costs and to share property tax revenue so the land bank can function over the long term, but some felt the details of those plans left a lot to be desired.

What was approved is a $250,000 loan to the Greater Syracuse Property Development Corporation to help with startup costs along with a promise the city will share the expected increase in back property tax payments it will collect.

It's unclear if the loan will ever be given out. The administration of Mayor Stephanie Miner doesn't support giving out the loan and the council can't force the mayor to spend any money.

The land bank had asked the council for specific details on what the revenue sharing plan would look like and a version was discussed that would send about a million dollars to the land bank each year. That measure was withdrawn before the council voted on it.

"It’s a promise," said councilor Jean Kessner of the measure approved Monday. "We will revenue share with the land bank when the money that comes in from, we hope, increased property tax payments."

Kessner says a plan on how to split the revenue will be worked out once the city knows just how much it collected. Historically, the city brings in about $3.1 million each year in back taxes. The hope is the land bank will scare up more than that.

Councilor Bob Dougherty says he voted 'no' on the measure today because he wanted to see a more detailed revenue sharing plan.

"I think everybody just wants to get it off the ground. We just have different ideas how to do that," Dougherty said.

The mayor's administration, along with members of the land bank's board, will go before the council again in the coming months and ask for a more detailed revenue sharing plan according the mayor's director of special projects, Tim Carroll.

Syracuse's land bank is a joint venture with Onondaga County. There are nearly 3,900 properties in Syracuse that are behind enough on property taxes that the city can foreclose on them. It began that process by sending out 200 foreclosure notices last month.

The Syracuse land bank was one of five formed this spring under a new state law. They're seen as a new tool to tackle the high number of vacant and tax delinquent properties in upstate New York's urban areas. Land banks have also been formed in Buffalo and Schenectady.