ALBANY Operating expenses at the state's public authorities soared nearly 18 percent over the past five years, but the number of jobs they created haven't kept pace, a report Tuesday found.
The report from the state Authorities Budget Officeis the latest to question the effectiveness of tax breaks and grants that the local authorities give to businesses in hopes of creating jobs.
Of the 425,000 jobs that the state created between 2009 and 2013, about 1 percent of those, roughly 4,500, came from the 186 projects backed by local industrial-development authorities, the report said. But the IDAs did meet their job projections, the report said.
"It's very difficult to come away with any certainty over what contribution did they make in adding to these 400,000 jobs," said David Kidera, executive director of the Authorities Budget Office.
The office was created in 2009 by the state Legislature as a way for the state and the public to provide greater scrutiny over the hundreds of public authorities in New York – offshoots of state and local governments that can often provide tax breaks to private employers.
The authorities are also used to fund projects and services, such as water and sewer districts.
Brian McMahon, executive director of the state Economic Development Council, which represents the IDAs, said the report is skewed. He said it doesn't adequately take into account the jobs that were preserved through local grants and tax breaks.
"The headline could just has easily have been that IDAs create thousands of jobs at low cost," McMahon said. "Instead, I think they've cherry picked a few IDAs and the outcomes of a few projects, instead of looking at the totality of what IDAs do across the state."
The operating expenses of state authorities for 2013 totaled $30 billion, an increase of 17.6 percent from 2009. At the same time, though, staffing declined by 2,800 employees.
Some public authorities provide bonuses to its staff. Twenty two authorities gave out bonuses last year to 2,100 employees and bonuses of more than $10,000 were paid to 65 staff members, mainly at medical centers and transit authorities.
The highest salary and bonus went to Michael Israel, the CEO of Westchester Medical Center. His total compensation in 2013 was $1.5 million, including a nearly $485,000 bonus, the report said.
The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority gave out 13 bonuses to its top employees last year, the report said.
The report said that the 568 authorities under its purview reported $151.9 billion in debt, a 6.4 percent increase since 2009.
The Authorities Budget Office said it censured the board members of 13 local authorities for "persistent failure" to report its financial data to the office, including the Tompkins County Area Development Inc.
Tompkins County Area Development, however, said it doesn't believe it needs to report to the state.
"TCAD is a private not for profit, not a public authority so we do not believe we should be treated as a public authority," Michael Stamm, president of TCAD, said in a statement.