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First abatement nears approval

September 02, 2009
The Crawford County Council last Tuesday took one step closer toward issuing the county's first tax abatement.

The council, acting on an application from Smith Creek LLC, which wants to construct an animal bedding shaver facility on 30-plus acres on the old Eckerty quarry site, voted 6-0 (Joey Robinson was absent) to establish an economic revitalization area and tax abatement.

The vote sets up a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 8, at the Crawford County Judicial Complex in English prior to the council's regular meeting. If there are no problems, the council will cast a final vote that evening.

Even if the council approves the establishment of the economic revitalization area and the abatement, taxpayers who disagree will be able to file a public dispute.

Marcus Burgher IV, the council's attorney, said tax abatements, which can be for up to 10 years like the one Smith Creek is requesting, do not reduce the amount of taxes already being collected on a piece of property. Instead, they only temporarily reduce the amount of taxes paid on improvements, such as equipment, with the reduction decreasing each subsequent year of the abatement, he explained. For instance, Smith Creek still must pay the property's current $688, per installment, tax bill, he said.

In a related matter, Burgher suggested the council may want to revise the resolution it passed last month that established the requirements for the application and approval of economic revitalization area designation and for property tax abatement.

The policy states that applicants seeking an abatement in an already established Tax Increment Financing district must present a letter from the majority of all of the property owners in the district indicating support of the area being designated as an economic revitalization area.

Burgher said when he drafted the policy, he didn't realize the TIF district, which runs north along S.R. 66 from Leavenworth to Marengo and then along S.R. 64 west to English and east to Milltown, was contiguous. Getting a letter signed by the majority of landowners would be a "major undertaking," one that isn't feasible, as the majority of the county's population lives within the TIF district, he said.

Councilman Bill Breeding said the requirement was a good idea that "you wouldn't want to eliminate" completely.

The council and Burgher discussed several options, from deleting the requirement altogether to reducing the requirement to smaller zones within the TIF district or just the real estate section the property is located.

"We either have to change the policy or shrink it," Council President Jerry Brewer said.

At Burgher's recommendation, the council took no action, allowing him time to research the options.

The Smith Creek site is not located in the TIF district, and, therefore, the company's application is unaffected.

In another matter, the council voted 6-0 to adopt a policy requiring other governmental agencies and not-for-profit groups re-questing funds from the county to submit a letter of request and have a representative come before the council.

The council previously has given groups like youth organizations financial as-sistance from the county's riverboat wagering and contingency funds, but the state said it no longer could do so. Burgher, however, pursued the matter and the state reversed its position as long as the county has a policy in place.

After creating the policy, the council formally ap-proved an earlier request for $5,000 from the Crawford County 4-H Council Inc. to help pay for security, maintenance and cleanup at this year's fair. The county council previously had approved the request contingent on the state changing its stance.

County Councilman Jim Taylor, who serves as vice president of the 4-H Council, was present and had signed an agreement with the council on behalf of the 4-H. He abstained from the county council's vote.

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