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10/12/2017 12:36:00 PM
Dubois County tax abatement changes come with accountability in mind

Candy Neal, Herald Staff Writer

The Dubois County Council approved changes to the county’s tax abatement application Wednesday, saying that the new packet makes businesses more accountable to the community.

“It’s an improvement,” Councilman Craig Greulich said. “It actually brings it in a little bit, the parameters. But it’s still workable to the business and tax payer.”

Councilwoman Becky Beckman, who was not able to attend Wednesday’s meeting, has said that she wanted to make sure there was a direct benefit to the community that comes from the businesses getting the abatements.

Tax abatements reduce the amount of property taxes owners pay on new construction or new equipment for a certain period of time and they’re approved by a government unit, the county, in this case. The idea is that the improvements will help applicants with things like creating more jobs or increasing wages of jobs.

Beckman and Councilwoman Sonya Haas are part of Dubois County’s five-member tax abatement committee that studied the abatement application packet and proposed changes. The application determines the length of an approved tax abatement based on the points an application earns.

Changes are mostly in how businesses earn points on the application. The kinds of services, features and future employment plans a company has are awarded points. Those points are tallied to make the application score. That score determines how many years of tax abatement a company will receive and what percentage the abatement will be for each year.

One big change is that the scoring sheet that lists how many points are given for an activity will not be included in the packet, to discourage companies from possibly trying to pad an application to get more points.

The kinds of things that earn points will also change. For instance, addictions are becoming more and more of a problem; so the application will give points to a company that has a clean workplace program. Another new idea included is whether or not companies offer job training that could help workers advance in the company.

Points for things like offering health insurance or having green technology have been removed; committee members felt that companies should be doing that for the sake of their own company.

“This is going in the right direction for us,” Greulich said Wednesday. “The taxpayers are happy, and I still think the businesses are benefitting from it as well.”

Council President Jerry Hunefeld said there is a delicate balance between giving a tax break to businesses and making sure the taxpayer isn’t being heavily burdened because of the break.

“It’s a fine line between the two,” he said. “You want to be proactive for the business. But on the other hand, you want to make sure that the taxpayers are protected as well.”

County Auditor Kathy Hopf said the county’s attorney will check to see if the county’s abatement ordinance needs to change, since there are changes in the application fees.

Jasper, Huntingburg and Ferdinand have their own abatement packets and applications for their jurisdictions.

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