Morton Board of Education Approves Incentive Policy

Friday, July 18, 2014

During a school board meeting on July 8th, the Morton Community Unit School District 709 Board of Education voted unanimously to support a proposed incentive policy developed by the Morton Economic Development Council.

The proposal has also been approved by the Morton Public Library.  It is still under consideration by the other local taxing bodies including the Village of Morton, Morton Township, Morton Park District, Tazewell County, and Illinois Central College.

The following article reviewing the proposal was written by Steve Stein for the Peoria Journal Star:

A proposal being considered for approval by the village’s taxing bodies lists the minimum requirements a business must meet to receive property tax abatements for a construction or expansion project.

“Instead of each project being discussed individually like we’ve done in the past, the proposal gives us specific guidelines,” said Jennifer Daly, CEO of the Morton Economic Development Council.

A seven-member council sub-committee that included District 709 Superintendent Lindsey Hall; Village Board trustees Randy Belsley and Stephen Newhouse; lawyer Jim Benckendorf; business owners Terry Baum and Bill Aupperle; and Kim Uhlig, the council’s business development director, worked for eight months on the proposal.

Hall endorsed the proposal last week after presenting it to the School Board. “It gives us a consistent, objective process for determining tax abatements,” she said.

Business growth is becoming increasingly crucial to the school district’s bottom line because of declining and uncertain state funding. More than 80 percent of the revenue for the district’s $33 million 2013-2014 budget is expected to come from property taxes.

Daly said the tax abatement proposal could become a model for the region. “Several area communities and counties have requested copies of it,” she said.

The proposal targets three types of businesses — industrial/construction, knowledge-based and logistics — and sets minimum requirements for square footage or capital investment, new job creation and wage rates for construction and expansion.

If a business meets the criteria and has evidence that it needs tax abatements, it can apply for five years of abatements on a scale that starts with 90 percent in the first year, and drops to 70 percent in the second year and 50 percent in the final three years.

Each abatement would be between the business and the village of Morton, acting on behalf of all the taxing bodies.It would be the Economic Development Council’s responsibility to monitor each business during the five years of abatements to make sure it continued to meet the requirements.

In addition to the qualifications for an abatement, the proposal addresses changes in business ownership, tax levy objections and payment of all property taxes owed if a business closes during the abatement period. The proposal expires Dec. 31, 2017, but can be automatically renewed for three years unless a taxing body wants to back out.

Daly said the proposal is perfect for Morton. “Most communities in our region offer up to 100 percent property tax abatement for five years in their enterprise zone,” she said. “That’s compelling to many businesses and tough competition for us. However, we believe our proposal, while more conservative than our neighbors, is ideal for Morton. It targets the types of business development and job creation we want to see in our community while protecting the assets of our taxing bodies.”

Even with the tax abatement requirements in place, Daly said, there may be a time when a request made by a large business or destination retailer, such as Bass Pro Shops, would have to be considered individually.

The Economic Development Council has assisted 69 businesses with finding a location or doing an expansion in Morton since 2008. Of those 69, only American Tire, Monsanto and Morton Industries received a tax abatement. All would have met the proposal’s criteria.

Businesses helped by the council have generated more than $860,000 in property tax revenue since 2008.

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The Morton Economic Development Council exists to positively shape the future of Morton. 

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