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County Reps: IDA Budget Must be More Transparent

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Westchester legislators are concerned about the transparency and accountability of the county's Industrial Development Agency (IDA), after New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli released an annual report of the state’s Industrial Development Agencies statistics that raised concerns about the accuracy of those local agencies.

Legislator John Nonna (D-Pleasantville) said the legislators would like more fiscal documents from the Westchester IDA, which was designed to spur the local economy and create more jobs.

“It is crucial that this board be apprised on a prompt basis about what the IDA is doing, and how it is faring in accomplishing its mission: to create jobs here in Westchester County,” Nonna said in a press release. "We at the county board are doing our due diligence in tracking Westchester's IDA as recommended by the comptroller."

Nonna, who serves as the chair of the legislation committee, told others on the committee that a 2009 law requires all IDAs to give budget and capital construction information, annual independent audit reports, and other related documents to the board of legislators chair.

The comptroller's report sparked concerns about the accuracy of job creation and retention figures. Now, the board of legislators, which has a Democratic majority, seeks more information on what criteria is used to evaluate IDA projects and the cost-benefit analysis of these incentives.

IDA Executive Director Eileen Mildenberger recently testified in front of county representatives that she didn't support the legislators appointing a non-voting member to the IDA board, according to a press release from the board of legislators. Mildenberger, who did not return calls from The Daily White Plains for comment before deadline Wednesday, reportedly thought the non-voting member would be a legislator and may compromise the board's autonomy.

Currently, legislators don't have the authority to select an IDA board member, however, a bill under consideration by state representatives proposes allowing the county legislature to appoint a non-voting board member.

Westchester legislators argue that County Executive Robert Astorino, a Republican, has added two members to the IDA's board but say they won't appoint a legislator.

Astorino's office said expanding the IDA board wouldn't be constructive.

"This would create an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. The IDA meetings are public and all the information required by law is posted on our  website," Donna Greene, a press representative from Astorino's office, wrote in an email.

What do you think of the Westchester IDA? Are you familiar with its programs? If so, how constructive are they? What do you think of the legislators' request for more fiscal information and the privilege to appoint a board member? Email thoughts to strangle@mainstreetconnect.us and we'll include your responses in future coverage.

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