MOUNT VERNON — Area Development Foundation president Steve Waers met with the Knox County Commissioners on Monday afternoon to present recommendations on the annual extension of tax abatements for Knox County businesses.
The tax abatements are offered to existing businesses and businesses interested in coming to Knox County, to give incentive for locating in the county. Waers said that as abatements have been common practice, it has become very difficult for any county to keep or attract jobs without abatements.
Waers explained that abatements refer to reducing or removing taxes on business income, with the exception of school taxes. Area schools still receive taxation support from all businesses, no matter what their abatement may be.
“The schools are, in fact, the first ones to approve each abatement,” Waers said.
“It’s a win/win, no matter how you see it,” he added, explaining that the tax abatement brings jobs, employing people who will spend their money in Knox County, while the schools lose nothing in the abatement arrangement.
Standing abatements are reviewed every year by the Tax Incentive Review Council, consisting of school district representatives for each district holding at least one abatement, township trustees from affected townships, one county commissioner, the county auditor, and representatives of the city of Mount Vernon and the village of Fredericktown. The council meets to review the abatements and make note whether the business is honoring the terms of the original agreement.
If a company has been given an abatement for promising to add jobs and/or to preserve existing jobs, and those numbers are not met or maintained, the business is then alerted it must restore the missing number of jobs within three years or lose the abatement.
Although the current recession has caused a number of layoffs in the area, Waers said none of the reviewed companies are in imminent danger of losing their abatements, although some job losses will need to be restored. Nineteen businesses are receiving 25 abatements, and were recommended by the council to have those abatements extended.
In Mount Vernon, the abatement recipients are AMG, Ariel Corp., Connells Furniture, First-Knox National Bank, Hisan/Sanoh, Mt. Vernon Machine & Tool, Owens Corning, Replex, Rolls-Royce, Time Warner and Ver-Mac. In Fredericktown, Dana and Unique Metals receive abatements.
Brenneman Lumber, Central Ohio Fabricators and Mt. Vernon Packaging receive abatements in Clinton Township, while Burch Hydro in Middlebury Township and FT Precision in Wayne Township receive abatements.
Some of the current abatements have been in place for up to a decade, although most are of more recent vintage. Waers said abatements within the last two years have helped create 350 new jobs. He said that over their entire life, the abatements have collectively fostered over 725 new jobs and preserved over 2,000 existing jobs.
The commissioners accepted the council’s recommendation and approved an extension of the abatements for another year.
In other business, the commissioners held the second public hearing regarding Knox County’s proposed application to CHIP, the Community Housing Improvement Program, for the 2010 financial year. As no members of the public or other officials attended, the county’s public funding consultant, Amy Schocken, was given the go-ahead to submit the proposal by CHIP’s deadline of April 1.
The application targets Bladensburg to receive a significant portion of the money. The application asks for $125,000 to be given to approximately 12 units as home repair for low-income owners. An additional $243,000 is requested to use for private-owner rehabilitation in what is known as a second mortgage grant, where the resident gets 10 percent of the grant forgiven every year. If they remain in the residence for 10 years, the full amount is forgiven. The goal is to apply this to six units. As the named target, Bladensburg must receive at least $100,000 of the money.
An additional $20,000 is requested for new construction of one home to be undertaken by Habitat for Humanity. Twelve households would be assisted by the $72,000 requested for very low-income renters. Fair housing is slated for $1,000, and $61,000 is named for administration.
CHIP awards are to be announced in September, with start-up by November; all funded projects are to be completed by Oct. 31, 2012.
Matthew Kurtz, interim director of Knox County Job & Family Services, visited the commissioners for his weekly summary. Kurtz said Knox County’s unemployment figures dropped from 11.4 percent last month to 10.9 percent, matching the state figure. Both figures are higher than the current national average of 9.7 percent. Ottawa County is the highest in the state with 19.1 percent unemployment, while Delaware County is the lowest in the state with only 8.2 percent unemployment.