Today For Tomorrow: The power of endowment

Rande Richardson

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” — Chinese Proverb 

More than ever, nonprofit organizations providing valuable services that enrich and enhance our lives are finding the wisdom and necessity of diversifying their revenue. Just as in the private sector, survival is enhanced when there are reliable streams of operating funds. Just as there are short-term, near-term and long-term needs, there should be a resource approach built with each in mind. 

    Currently, over 150 nonprofit organizations, churches and schools serving Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties have committed to ensuring their long-term viability by partnering with the Community Foundation. Through these partnerships, they have consciously established and built dedicated resources for the purpose of creating a financial bedrock for the sustainability of their work and mission and best stewardship of gifts entrusted to them. While organizational endowments are not a one-size-fits-all proposition, I can point to many charitable organizations, large and small, whose strength has been enhanced by a permanent fund with the accountable discipline only an endowment brings. 

    This approach continues to be of interest to donors who seek to extend their annual giving beyond their lifetimes. Individuals often prefer to make major gifts, including legacy bequests, to provide support for specific charities that will remain in place in perpetuity or to those charities for specific purposes. Recognizing the importance of annual support, the typical Community Foundation donor creates or adds to a permanent endowment for multiple charities at various percentages. Contributing to an endowment provides an enduring gift that can support programs, projects, buildings and initiatives that the donor may have helped previously provide for. 

    This is a primary reason why the Community Foundation now routinely couples grants with an incentive to help build protection for the initial capital expense. To that end, we are currently doubling gifts to build endowments for over 30 local organizations. Just as in life, it is wise to consider the ability to maintain, improve and properly care for things we have made investments in. Even for smaller charitable organizations, an endowment demonstrates to the community and donors a long-term thinking and a commitment to building capacity for the future. In many ways, earnings from endowments help complement and maximize the annual giving that is so critical to fulfillment of mission. This may draw further support from those who wish to provide for an institution that has stability, longevity, permanence and strength. 

    While some may point out that an endowment is of minimal help until it reaches a certain level, taking the first step to proactively focus on the long-term may help a nonprofit’s most loyal supporters see a clear pathway to do the same. The endowment goal should be aligned with realistic levels of giving for this institution even though organizations often underestimate the ability of one donor to be a game changer for future strength. By demonstrating to donors a responsible, stewarded mechanism to perpetuate their support, the case becomes more compelling. Community Foundation endowments help build even more confidence knowing that there is an additional layer of oversight and accountability through leadership changes over time. Being able to stipulate alternate uses for endowment funds in the event an entity ceases to exist is also incredibly powerful from a donor advocacy perspective. This aligns closely with the sanctity of donor intent knowing that what an organization does is likely the ultimate motivation for the gift over the organization itself. The delivery of that program or service may someday be offered in an alternate form. 

    Whether you are a board member, donor or employee, if you believe that the work your organization does is important enough to support today, finding ways to support that mission long-term should be equally critical. As with a savings or retirement program, there is no substitute for starting early. Endowment gifts help ensure that legacies are best remembered for generations to come, in service of the things about which you care most. Ultimately, this protects the investments you’ve made in those causes during your lifetime and has the potential to provide many times the impact of a gift made in one lump sum. When the generosity of the past is combined with the actions of today’s donors, a powerful effect is created, making both acts of kindness more powerful and far reaching. Together, this helps increase the chance that organizations that are here for good can remain here for good. 

Rande Richardson is executive director of the Northern New York Community Foundation. Contact him at rande@nnycf.org. 

Property Mixed For First Six Months of 2019

Lance Evans

The first six months of 2019 have seen mixed results in terms of real estate sales in Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Overall, 2019 single family home sales are up slightly in the tri-county area, while days on the market (the time from when the listing contract is signed until the purchase offer is signed) declined when compared to January to June 2018. Depending on the location the median price for a home either stayed relatively flat or rose. It should be noted that the “median price” is the middle point for real estate prices. It is not the same as the average price. The median price is the price in the very middle of a data set, with exactly half of the houses priced for less and half priced for more. 

    Sales of other types of property (commercial, land, and multi-family) in the tri-county area declined year over year. Again depending on the county, the price and the days on the market varied. 

    Looking at Jefferson County, sales of all property and single-family homes rose slightly with an increase of 1 to 2 percent over the previous year with 582 properties selling of which 489 were single-family. The change in year to year days on the market was flat with the number for all property up a day to 127 and down a day for single-family home sales to 107. The biggest change was median price which rose 5.4 percent to $128,000 for all property types and 8 percent to $140,500 for single family units. 

    Lewis County was a different story with declines seen in the units sold and a rise in the days on the market for all property and for single-family homes. Property sales for all types dropped 26 units to 105 and days on the market increased to 214, up over a month from 2018. The price stayed about the same, declining 1 percent to a median of $90,000. The number for single-family homes were similar with a drop of 23 units year over year, a decline of about 1 percent in median price to $110,000. There was a seven day increase to time on the market to 146 days. 

    The market was mixed in St. Lawrence County. The overall number of units sold declined by over 3 percent to 334, while the median sale price also went down by about 6 percent to $80,000. A bright spot in property sales was the thirty-four day drop in time on the market to 194 days. By contrast, single family home sales increased by 9 percent to 313 units. Similar to all property sales, the price declined, however it was only a 2 percent decline to $90,000. Days on the market also fell by over a month to 184 days. 

    These figures are in line with New York State data which is similarly mixed. Statewide, the median price of single family homes increased 5.8 percent over the period in 2018. Days on the market dropped 3.7 percent and the number of units sold decreased 5.2 percent. 

    The National Association of Realtors (NAR) notes that, through May, sales for the year are down about 1.1 percent while the median price increased 4.8 percent and days on the market were flat. Narrowing it to the Northeast (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont), NAR said that this region experienced the biggest increase in sales. 

    What does this mean to buyers and sellers in our area? Overall, the tri-county market is healthy through the first six months. If the trend continues, housing sales will be equal to last year with modest increases in price and sales happening a little faster. With interest rates still relatively low, it may be a great time to buy. 

    One word of caution, in certain areas within the tri-county region, sales, median price, and/or days on the market may vary greatly from the above figures. Similarly, certain types of property or price ranges may also experience stronger or weaker sales. Your best source of information is a Realtor. He or she can give you a much more focused report that will fit your needs and desires. 

Development of Downtown Watertown

Aerial view of downtown Watertown.

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DEC Plays Critical Role in Strong Local Economies

Randy Young

If asked, few people would associate the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with economic development. However, DEC plays a critical role in maintenance and improvement of local strong economies. Indeed, our mission statement says that we protect and enhance the environment in part to protect the “…overall economic and social well-being …” of the people of the state.

    A few examples of DEC directly supporting local economies include our programs to clean up blighted properties with the hopes of redevelopment and returning these properties to the tax rolls.

    DEC’s Brownfield Cleanup Program (BCP) was established to support private-sector cleanups of contaminated properties and reduce development pressure on greenfields.  Tax credits are provided to parties that perform cleanup activities under the BCP to offset the costs associated with site investigation and cleanup, site preparation, and property improvements. Specific examples of sites that have been redeveloped under the BCP include abandoned gas stations, former factory and mill complexes, and foundries.

    DEC also assists with the cleanup of abandoned gas stations and other petroleum spill sites through the New York State Spill Fund. Within DEC Region 6, which includes Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Oneida and Herkimer counties, DEC spent approximately $1 million in 2017-2018 to clean up six sites within the city of Rome, and we’re poised to invest an additional $1 million this year on nine sites in St. Lawrence County. 

    Once these cleanups are complete, the municipalities will be able to market the properties for redevelopment and place them back on the tax rolls. 

    Millions of dollars in grants are also awarded to assist local communities with infrastructure improvement assistance. In Jefferson County, the village of Adams was recently awarded a Water Quality Improvement Project (WQIP) grant of $1 million for extensive improvements to its 38-year-old wastewater treatment facility. These improvements to the nearly 40-year-old wastewater treatment facility include the addition of disinfection equipment, which will substantially reduce the number of microorganisms discharged into Sandy Creek.

    “This award supports a much-needed project that the village of Adams has been planned for some time, and the grant will help the village to move it forward,” said David Rarick, DEC Region 6 regional water engineer.

    The WQIP program is a competitive, reimbursement grant program that funds projects that directly address documented water quality impairments. The village of Adams, plus 10 other municipalities and not-for-profits in Region 6 received WQIP awards totaling nearly $4.5 million.

    The town of Theresa was awarded $325,000 to build a new salt storage facility at the town’s highway department, while Thousand Islands Land Trust (TILT) was awarded $555,771 for a land acquisition project for source water protection. TILT plans to place perpetual conservation easements on six parcels of land totaling more than 310 acres of undeveloped habitat and three miles of vegetated shoreline and riparian habitat in the town of Clayton. This project will protect riparian vegetation, natural shoreline, and the surface water quality of the St. Lawrence River.

    The awards were announced mid-December 2018 and affect many statewide communities. Governor Cuomo announced more than $103 million in grants for a statewide total of 124 projects. While all WQIP projects will improve water quality, reduce the potential for harmful algal blooms and protect drinking water statewide, these funds provide an economic benefit, as well. Communities that can improve and expand wastewater collection and treatment capacity are better positioned to accommodate residential and commercial growth opportunities.

    “Access to clean water is critical to the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of our communities. With Governor Cuomo’s leadership, New York is investing millions of dollars to protect and restore invaluable water resources statewide and addressing growing threats like harmful algal blooms,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

    In other promising economic news, 12 municipalities in Region 6 received Engineering Planning Grant (EPG) awards totaling about $600,000. This includes $30,000 for the village of Dexter Wastewater Treatment Plant Disinfection Study. The EPG program funds engineering studies that will ultimately lead to wastewater treatment improvement projects that can be funded through the WQIP or other funding opportunities.

Randy Young is the regional attorney and acting regional director. He has been with the DEC for 25 years.

Realtor Association Awards, Inaugurate Boards of Directors

Lance Evans

December marks the end of the elected year for both the St. Lawrence County and the Jefferson-Lewis Boards of Realtors.  Both held their annual meetings which included the election and inauguration of new officers and directors and honoring those departing the Board of Directors. It also is the time of year that various awards are given and funds are raised for various community organizations.

St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors

    The St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors marked the end of the year with a lunch at the Gran View Restaurant in Ogdensburg on Dec. 14.  The occasion included awarding the Association’s first ever Realtor of the Year and Affiliate of the Year, a very successful auction conducted by Scott Boyer with proceeds going to area Neighborhood Centers, as well as inaugurating the 2019 Board of Directors.

    The Affiliate of the Year award is given to a non-Realtor member or member company.  Affiliates include bankers, lenders, home inspectors, media companies, etc. who have an interest in the real estate industry, but are not licensed to sell or appraise real estate. The award was given to Julie Derrigo-Inschert of Fairport Mortgage. Julie, a member for almost 30 years, was praised as having a high degree of knowledge about the industry, treating real estate buyers as VIPS, and having a level of commitment, professionalism, and compassion that makes her an asset to her profession.

    St. Lawrence County’s Realtor of the Year award is given to a realtor member (broker, appraiser, associate broker, or salesperson) who has made contributions to the realtor profession and their community.  This inaugural award was given to Jennifer Stevenson, broker-owner of Blue Heron Realty in Ogdensburg.  A member since 1990, Jennifer has held many offices locally including several terms as president. She served as the Adirondack Region Vice President for the NYS Association of Realtors (NYSAR) from 2009-2010, the 2018 NYSAR Secretary-Treasurer, and will be NYSAR’s President-Elect in 2019.  Jennifer also serves on the Ogdensburg City Council and has been president of her Rotary Club, president of Ogdensburg’s Chamber of Commerce, and is active in the SPCA.

    Jennifer Stevenson, in her capacity as a NYSAR Officer, also oversaw the inauguration of the 2019 Board of Directors. The 2019 President will be Richard J. Wood.  The rest of the team will be Brittany Matott (vice president), Elizabeth Trego (treasurer), Doug Hawkins (secretary), Debbie Gilson (immediate past president), Wendy Smith (state director), and three-year directors, Gail Abplanalp, Tracy Bernard, and Joel Howie.  Also recognized during the lunch was Amanda Kingsbury who served as Treasurer in 2017 and 2018.

Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors

    The Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors held its holiday dinner and inauguration on the evening of Dec. 13 at Watertown’s Hilton Garden Inn. Music for the evening was provided by Chuck Ruggiero.  During the dinner, the departing members of the Board of Directors were recognized, the 2019 Board of Directors were installed by NYSAR Central Region VP Don Radke, an Affiliate of the Year was named, and an auction was held which benefitted several charities including the Salvation Army, Watertown Urban Mission and Hospice.

    Northern Credit Union was recognized as the 2018 Affiliate of the Year.  Some of the reasons cited were their support for programs put on by the Realtor Association and the Women’s Council of Realtors Network, as well as their employees’ professionalism, knowledge, responsiveness, and enthusiasm.

    The Jefferson-Lewis Board will be led by Alfred Netto as 2019 President.  He will be assisted by Britt Abbey (president-Elect), Katharine Dickson (vice president), Mary Adair (treasurer), Nancy Rome (recording secretary), and Desiree Roberts (corresponding secretary). Rounding out the leadership team will be three-year directors Elizabeth Miller, Cindy Moyer, and Vickie Staie as well as one-year directors Daniel Bossuot and Michael Hall and State Director Walter Christensen.  Honored for their service as they departed the Board were Lisa Lowe (corresponding secretary) and Randy Raso (three-year director).

LANCE M. EVANS is the executive officer of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Realtors and the St. Lawrence County Board of Realtors. Contact him at levans@nnymls.com. His column appears monthly in NNY Business.

Charitable Contributions A ‘Non-Factor’ to Determine Domicile

Rande Richardson

Approximately one-third of all annual giving occurs in December. Supporters of local charitable organizations are generous throughout the year; however, nonprofit organizations rely heavily on year-end giving to fulfill their work and mission for all 12 months. At the Community Foundation, in addition to annual giving, many donors turn their thoughts to ways to perpetuate their support of causes through lifetime giving and legacy planning. At the same time, many take advantage of utilizing the benefit of the unique tool of a Community Foundation donor-advised fund to help ensure they reach a level that allows all of their yearly charitable giving to surpass standard deduction levels to ensure their deductibility.

Meanwhile, more Northern New Yorkers have become residents of other states (predominantly Florida). For local nonprofits, this is a trend that may be a cause for concern. An unintended consequence of a change of domicile is that now-seasonal New Yorkers inevitably become attached to charitable organizations and churches where they spend the winter. This is understandable.

What is less understandable, however, is some former residents are wrongly led to believe that their choice to change their residence limits, or even prohibits, their ability to make charitable contributions in New York. I occasionally have conversations with donors who have spent their lives, raised their families and earned their living in the North Country who fear that their domicile status may be jeopardized by their expression of charity. Not only is this notion hurtful to our area, it is simply not true. There are checklists of “do’s and don’ts” where domicile is concerned, however, published tax audit guidelines make clear the intent of the law is not to interfere in any way with personal giving, either within New York or anywhere else.

You should always consult your advisors for accounting and legal advice, and the Community Foundation will soon publish a more in-depth article on this written by a local estate planning attorney. For the purposes of this column, it is simply worth noting in broad terms that New York State auditor’s guidelines specifically state that a taxpayer’s charitable contributions are a “non-factor” and are not to be taken into account in determining domicile. The guidelines go even further to ensure that volunteer service not be used in any way to jeopardize domicile. Taken directly from the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance website: “Live out of state? Donating to a NY-based charity doesn’t make you a NYS resident for tax purposes. Making a charitable contribution to a New York State charity does not determine your domicile (your permanent and principal home for tax purposes). We want residents of other states to know that they can contribute to New York State charities with full knowledge that such a contribution isn’t taken into account when determining domicile.”

The North Country relies on gifts of both time and treasure from all for whom this place holds special meaning. We must do everything we can to help ensure that both organizations and the donors who support them are not misled down a path that somehow those relationships need end with a change in domicile.

Charitable giving is a very personal decision. Done properly, it is an extension of the individual and a reflection of one’s interests, passions and values. For many, that includes causes that they have supported for many years, across multiple generations. It is a reflection of their fondness and appreciation for the way the North Country has weaved through their lives. If donors choose to cease their giving and sever their ties to Northern New York charities, it should be for reasons other than mistaken myth and misconception.

Our region has been blessed by a culture of giving that has enhanced the quality of life here. Not only do our regional organizations rely on and value that type of generosity, those donors who desire to be part of that heritage need to be reassured that domicile need not be an obstacle to their personal and individualized expression of their core values in an enduring way.

North Country Cheerleader

DAYTONA NILES / NNY BUSINESS
Assemblyman Elect Mark Walczyk.

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In Family They Trust

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
The Garlock family poses for a portrait inside the Garlocks Design Center in Alexandria Bay.

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Finding the Funding: Small businesses find financial support

HOLLY BONAME / NNY BUSINESS
Laurel K. Zarnosky stands behind the ice cream counter at her newest business Simply Sweets at the Top of the Square Plaza, Watertown.

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Social Media & Digital Marketing: Bringing business into the modern age

SYDNEY SCHAEFER / NNY BUSINESS
Jessica Piatt, director of marketing at the Greater Watertown North Country Chamber of Commerce, takes a photo of materials on her desk for the Chamber of Commerce’s Instagram story.

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