Officials mull tax abatements
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain firstname.lastname@example.org May 15, 2013 6:22PM
Updated: June 18, 2013 7:29AM
JOLIET — Property tax abatements are a tool used by economic development officials to lure companies to town or encourage them to expand.
“The incentive can be a sweetener — it can put a project over the top,” said John Greuling, president and CEO of the Will County Center for Economic Development.
It helps companies “feel the love” from a community, he added.
But perhaps not every company needs a tax abatement, which takes money out of the pockets of taxing bodies that have limited budgets, some Will County Board members have said recently.
Their qualms have led to a review by county officials of the process used to grant tax abatements.
Currently, the CED, which receives $100,000 in annual funding from the county board each year, screens companies seeking property tax abatements. Recently, county board Republicans questioned the CED’s abatement formula, which uses the number of jobs that are going to be created and salaries as criteria for recommending abatements.
At a meeting Wednesday, CED representatives and county board members discussed the current process and possible changes.
Board member Chuck Maher, R-Naperville, said he would like to see data from the last five years on the number of companies that requested tax abatements and those that did not.
Currently, the county has a maximum abatement of 50 percent for five years, but perhaps the percentage should be higher for high-tech corporations or corporate offices, Maher said. He also suggested some companies could get a bigger break upfront and less in subsequent years.
County board Deputy Chief of Staff Melissa Johannsen asked Greuling to provide more information on the promises companies make in terms of jobs and salaries to get the abatements.
No one suggested the abatement program be terminated. And Greuling said Will County needs incentives to combat state financial problems that deter businesses from locating here.
“We’re becoming a fly-over state because of our fiscal condition,” he said.