Payments in lieu of taxes have always been somewhat controversial, but they seem to be generating even more conversations these days.

Some high profile PILOT agreements have been making news recently as the County of Clinton Industrial Development Agency weighs the cost and benefits of such agreements as they are the arbiter of requests.

They are tools used to stimulate development by giving developers tax breaks and breaks on other costly items such as the mortgage recording tax and sales tax on construction materials.

The IDA is charged with the responsibility of bringing in more development to the county with the idea that such development will help spur the economy.

The creation of direct jobs, generation of sales tax, spin-off jobs and an overall jolt to the economy from the establishment of a thriving business are all pluses of development.

In order to get developers to invest large sums of money and take a chance on a project, sometimes a little incentive is needed.

PILOT agreements have long been one of the sharpest tools in the IDA's tool box.

A PILOT agreement allows the developing entity to avoid paying full taxation in favor of a lower payment to the taxing jurisdictions.

Each PILOT is negotiated and structured differently. They usually are for 10 or 20 years, but can vary.

In many cases, the first three or four years of the PILOT calls for no payments to be made.

Such an attractive element is designed to give the project a chance to get off the ground and establish itself in those critical first years.

The tax payment schedule generally grows until it reaches full taxation.

The former Falcon Seaboard co-generation project just north of the city was perhaps the most notable PILOT agreement in the county's history.

That deal, inked in 1992, allowed the project to go forth, and called for payments to the City of Plattsburgh.

That deal remains controversial, however, as the city and Town of Plattsburgh are fighting over how payments, since the original PILOT expired, should be structured.

Train-maker Bombardier and wind farms in the northern portion of the county have also received PILOT agreements over the years.

Those deals seem to be worth it.

But some recent PILOT requests have raised questions.

Prime Plattsburgh, the developer for the Durkee Street parking lot project as part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Initiative, is seeking a PILOT deal for 20 years.

The city and developer argue that the development will have a major economic benefit to the area, and help create jobs.

They also point out that the parking lot now generates no taxes as city land.

The City of Plattsburgh School District, however, says it will feel the impact of not receiving full taxation from the project.

They remind the IDA that the 114 apartments in the Prime project are likely to generate more students for the district to serve, and that costs money.

Other developers may also be upset that their projects were not given PILOT agreements, although they are free to pursue them.

Another controversial PILOT agreement is one that the IDA just approved for the Vilas Home LLC in the city.

The senior living home was seeking a PILOT with plans to renovate and possibly expand.

The home was tax-exempt until the school district challenged that status in court a few years ago and won.

Supporters of the Vilas Home PILOT say that without it, the business could go under, leaving a boarded up building on a main city corner lot.

No one wants to see that.

In that regard, PILOT agreements are good.

But not everyone sees it that way.

The average property or business owner is inevitably going to say, "Hey, where's my tax break?"

Surely the business of giving out PILOT agreements is more complex than that.

Having said that, we implore the IDA Board of Directors to thoroughly examine each potential agreement from all sides and to disperse as much public information as possible so taxpayers throughout the county can make their own well-educated decisions on how they feel about PILOT agreements.