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Reporter's Notebook

December 22, 2012

Development funding is a complex process

Space and time often limit the ability of journalists to cover news stories in the depth they’d like to do.

The allocation of state grant money this week is an excellent example of just such a case.

The regional development councils have been trumpeted by state officials – Gov. Andrew Cuomo chief among them – as a way to take the allocation of development awards out of the hands of patronage kings and queens of Albany. The question now is whether the dominant counties in each district are engaging in the same kind of favoritism.

The state of New York posted the individual awards about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday after a day of webcast self-congratulation. Until then, the only figures released were totals for each of the 10 development regions that began operating last year.

Moreover, the awards – a mix of grants, bond funding and tax credits – were released in a single PDF document that made it nearly impossible, without specialized software, to convert the list into a spreadsheet, a great way to analyze trends in such data.

Two days later, we’ve been able to move the data into spreadsheets, and to think about some of the issues it raises.

Despite the hoopla, however, it’s important to note here that the bulk if the awards — at least as far as the region covered by The Daily Star goes — was not allocated to any specific project. Thus, about $39 million of $59.7 million allocated to the Mohawk Valley Regional Development council is not earmarked for any one project or county.

There are other caveats, too. As mentioned, not all of the money is cash grants. Some of it is bond financing that is supposed to be paid back, and a lot of it is in tax credits, which aren’t quite cash on the barrel head. A single line item — about $28 million — of the Mohawk money is bond capitalization.

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