After nearly 33 years as a dentist, Dr. Todd E. Shatkin believes in the value of dental education and the need for more dentists, especially in places like Erie County.
That’s why he started a dental residency program four years ago, in partnership with New York University. And that’s why he proposed to establish a new graduate dental school that would operate as part of Daemen University, to train up to 120 new students each year at Amherst in a three-year program.
“It’s kind of my passion, educating America’s future dentists,” said Shatkin, whose son graduated from Tufts University Dental School this month.
But his $7.85 million plan to establish his Shatkin College of Dentistry alongside his existing businesses in Amherst — a dental practice, dental training and dental implant manufacturing — is drawing criticism over the unusual structure of the relationship with Daemen, and its bid for nearly $400,000 in sales tax breaks from the Amherst Industrial Development Agency.
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Indeed, instead of giving large sums to Daemen – and obtaining naming rights so that the university can build and launch a school – Shatkin will invest directly in buildings and equipment, which he will own or control. . In fact, he acts as a real estate developer and landlord for Daemen, which will lease space to the dentist for 20 years for the new school and a separate institute focused on helping patients with reduced mobility.
“He’s ready to recoup his investment over time as school continues and lease payments come in,” Daemen President Gary A. Olson said. “It’s not a gift. It’s a business arrangement.”
Amherst dentist, Dr. Todd Shatkin of Shatkin Dental Health, is partnering with the university to build Shatkin College of Dentistry in part of the Phillips Brothers Supply Building on Kensington Avenue near Amherst’s dental facilities in Shatkin and the growing “medical spine” along I-290.
The structure of the agreement is at the heart of the problem. The project is not eligible for tax breaks under the countywide IDA policy and would need an exception from the Amherst IDA to obtain them. Other IDA board members question the need for the project – which is outside of their role as board members – and question whether the tax breaks are essential.
If the project had been structured around a grant, Daemen would not have needed to go to IDA for tax breaks and would only need city approval.
Shatkin will use vacant space in a building he owns at 2500 Kensington Ave. — which was redeveloped with the help of $992,000 in IDA tax breaks five years ago — and will also lease the neighboring building from Philipps Brothers Supply Co. The 29,350-square-foot Philipps Building at 2525 Kensington – which Shatkin will sublet to Daemen – will be the primary location for the dental school.
The center will offer services not yet available at WNY to patients recovering from stroke and brain and spinal cord injury – or those who have been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy.
“Our intention is to develop a cutting-edge program, a very, very contemporary model,” said Daemen Provost Michael Brogan. “Clearly this is a Daemen program, a Daemen operation.”
Shatkin declined to discuss details of the partnership.
“It’s our way. I will not defend the way I manage my project with them. The project is the project,” he said. “This is a big, big project that will benefit the whole community. It’s a victory for Daemen. It’s a win for us, and it’s a win for the community.
And he dismissed the criticism.
“Anyone who has criticism, it’s just because they’re jealous or upset that we’re opening another school,” he said. “That’s life. That’s how the cookie crumbles.”
Dr. Todd Shatkin and Daemen University are seeking nearly $394,000 in sales tax relief for the $7.9 million project to bring a new dental school and physical rehabilitation center to the Amherst campus .
The project has been in the making for more than three years and stems from Shatkin’s initiative. The Shatkin family has a long-standing relationship with Daemen. Shatkin’s mother, Joan, was on its board of trustees, while her brother, plastic surgeon Samuel Jr., is on the faculty. And Shatkin has already supported the university’s efforts.
“They were the logical first choice,” he said.
“At first they weren’t sure they wanted to get involved, but with a bit of arm twisting and a fair bit of talking, they agreed to partner with me,” Shatkin said. “I take the risk of investing money in the infrastructure to develop the school, the clinics, the equipment, so that the whole project is operational.”
At the time, Daemen was not actively seeking dental school.
“But it became clear that it was a good thing to do,” Olson said. “Most small colleges wouldn’t suddenly decide to start a dental school. There’s so much to pay for space and equipment. The partnership is what makes this possible for both parties.”
The dental school — the only other in the area is at the University at Buffalo — would employ five full-time faculty and administrators, 22 part-time faculty and five support staff. All would be selected and hired by Daemen. Shatkin shares development costs for regulatory programs and applications, and will support the company with programming and management services.
Tax break controversy
Shatkin is seeking $394,000 in sales tax relief on materials and equipment purchased for the project. Without them, Daemen’s rental fees would otherwise increase. Shatkin is not asking for property tax breaks.
If Daemen had carried out the project directly as developer and owner – the most common model for a given school – it would have been exempt from taxes as a non-profit organization. But Shatkin and Daemen executives say the university lacks the financial resources or physical space to undertake such a project.
“If we had tried to pursue this project independently, without the help of Dr. Shatkin, it would be years away,” said Terry Gilbride, Daemen’s attorney and trustee, who cited an independent equity opinion commissioned. by the university. “That might never have happened.”
The school is also considered a provider of “retail services”, which would normally not be eligible for tax relief.
Shatkin and attorney Laurence Rubin of Kavinoky Cook argued that the school would advance city goals of advancing higher education and professional services. They also said it would be a regional draw by creating new jobs, attracting students, training new dentists and increasing economic spending.
“This area is underserved by dentists, so this will help meet that need in the community,” Rubin said.
But IDA board members questioned the need for the school and suggested it was premature to act. Shatkin noted that a consortium of the state’s six existing dental schools has already cited a need for 1,024 more full-time dentists by 2025, with Erie County facing one of the biggest shortages.
Board member Timothy Drury disputed this claim.
“I just don’t see that being necessary,” he said, noting that the University at Buffalo trains 120 dentists each year. “Is there any proof of that?
Board member Hadar Borden noted that Shatkin secured tax breaks in 2017 for one of the buildings, with the promise of “significant impact that would be received as a result of construction, and now we let’s focus on providing an incentive on the same space”.
Rubin said the earlier perks applied to another part of the building.
Daemen has applied for certification with the New York State Department of Education and accreditation with the Chicago-based Dental Accreditation Commission. But until she receives both — which is far from guaranteed, notes Jacqualine Berger, a longtime educator and city hall representative to IDA — the new school won’t be able to open.
And even Daemen officials say the tax breaks aren’t critical, though Shatkin disagrees.
“It’s not a deal-breaker or anything like that,” Brogan said. “If that doesn’t happen for the Shatkin app, the plan is still moving forward.”