HENNEPIN — Projects in Putnam County’s enterprise zone currently benefit from a 100 percent tax abatement for a decade, but the board is considering amending that provision for the future.
The board has been told of many counties that abate only a portion of their taxes for industries within their enterprise zones and remain successful. The Putnam County Board is now considering the same in the hope it eventually helps provide much-needed additional revenue.
“If we’re going to ask the public for something, we should also ask our companies to do the same,” board member Charlie Lenkaitis said of taxation increases at the board’s Monday meeting.
Supervisor of Assessments Tammy Mehalic presented the board with hypothetical figures based on the addition of a $5 million project within the Bureau-Putnam Enterprise Zone and various levels of tax abatement.
She said an abatement of 75 percent on a $5 million project would bring $12,350 in annual revenue to the county. A 50 percent abatement would collect $24,700. Board Chairman Steve Malavolti requested the board approve an amendment setting the abatement for future projects at 75 percent.
Board member Luke Holly questioned whether new industry would come to Putnam County if the level of abatement was lowered. Lenkaitis said if that was what was said to be keeping a project away, the county wouldn’t be getting it anyway.
The board has also been discussing the creation of a public safety levy to generate new revenue. Both Mehalic and Treasurer Kevin Kunkel reminded the board the two revenue-generating alternatives were completely different solutions.
“I think you should table this decision because I’m seeing a lot of confusion,” Mehalic told the board.
Board member Sheila Haage wanted to table the issue until member Brad Popurella was present, saying the full board should be making these decision. Lenkaitis said the board had waited long enough. The board voted to table the issue.
Malavolti said public hearings will be heard and that he wanted the enterprise zone amendment to be as easy to understand as possible. The board will also be working on another tax-raising referendum question for voters to consider in the next election.
The county received $887,240.59 from the recent tax disbursement. Kunkel reported that to meet expenses, the county had borrowed an additional $50,000 from the Federal Aid Matching Fund in June, raising the total amount borrowed from the fund to $200,000.
At the end of June, the balance in the county’s General Fund was $134,837. This amount is very close to the amounts Kunkel predicted the county would have after the disbursement and the repayment of the inter-fund loans.
The county’s next tax disbursement will be received in September, and Kunkel estimated the county would be starting 2020 with a balance of about $200,000 in the General Fund.
County Highway Department
County Highway Engineer Pat Sloan said the condition of the Bottom Road bridge continues to deteriorate. The weight limit over the bridge was previously reduced by half to eight tons.
Sloan said IDOT will be re-examining the bridge and determining how to proceed.
“If they tell me to close it, I have to immediately close the road,” Sloan told the board.
Sloan also said the project to rebuild the bridge will include the ability to accept a turn lane, but added that IDOT may or may not approve it.
He reported the sealcoating work on the west side of the river has been completed.
He also reported only 68 percent of the money collected through the recently doubled motor fuel tax will return to Putnam County.
In other news
• The board approved the amendment to the fiscal year 2019 budget to minimize spending and provide balance to the estimated $2.9 million fiscal year revenue. The amendment will eliminate one position in the county clerk’s office, effective Aug. 1.
• Putnam County Probation Officer Patricia Hohulin reported she has approximately $8,700 left in her office’s budget.
• Zoning Officer Jim Burger reported the main structure at the steel plant has been taken down. He said he’s been told the site would be finished by August, but added he didn’t think it would be finished by that time.
• The board approved the annual payment to renew the county’s property damage, casualty and liability insurance with Gonet-Opper Insurance. Mike Gonet said the policy was essentially the same as last year, but with the addition of the county’s new salt storage shed. According to Gonet, the policy’s coverage was increased a standard 3 percent, and the cost for the approximately $54,000 policy is only $400 more than last year.
The next Putnam County Board meeting is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 12.