Thursday, August 25, 2022

When Things Are Not as They Were Reported

On Monday, Gossips linked to an article by Roger Hannigan Gilson about the Hudson Industrial Development Agency (IDA) that appeared in the Times Union: "Hudson rethinks how it gives tax breaks after hotel developers flock." In my post, I noted what I considered to be an obvious exaggeration: the statement about the number of hotels that had sought benefits from the IDA. Gilson informed me that his statement about "more than a half-dozen hotel projects that have started the approval process" referred to approval by the Planning Board not the IDA. Because he realized the statement had been misleading, Gilson amended it in the article.

Yesterday, Gilson's article was amended further, to remove comparisons made between tax breaks given by the Hudson IDA and other IDAs in the Capital Region. This morning, Gossips was one of the recipients of this email from Gilson.
I made a significant mistake in the article involving the data. In essence, I compared the total tax breaks given to various Hudson IDA projects over the course of their PILOTS to the compiled tax breaks given out by Cap Region IDAs over the course of a single year. When these resulting figures are compared to the total costs of the projects the tax breaks apply to, it results in inaccurately high tax rates for the other Cap Region IDAs when compared to the Hudson IDA, making it appear as though the Hudson IDA was giving far more generous tax breaks than its neighbors.

When these figures were questioned on Tuesday, I contacted the state Comptroller’s Office with questions about their annual report (where I had gotten the compiled tax break figures for other Cap Region IDAs). They were able to connect me with one of the data people who wrote the report the next day (Wednesday).

Later Wednesday, we removed the section of the article comparing the Hudson IDA’s tax breaks with those of other Cap Region IDAs, as well as a table and a chart. We also included the following correction, which appears at the top of the article:

Editor's note: This story has been updated to remove incorrect comparisons between the tax break rates given by the Hudson IDA and other Capital District IDAs. A data error was made mismatching the total, lifetime costs of projects with their tax savings over a single year, which made it appear as though the Hudson IDA gave out tax breaks that far exceeded those of neighboring communities. A graphic and chart showing the comparison has also been removed from the story.
The actual subject of the article, suggested by the headline and remaining after the redactions, is the new criteria for evaluating projects being developed by the Hudson IDA. The draft of that criteria appears below. (Click on the image to enlarge.)

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