Living and working in small town America you get to see the political machinery operate in a entirely different manner than what I have witnessed in the big city. Small town politics can make or break relations with local businesses especially when it comes to determining important issues such as whether or not to allow certain Tax abatement extensions to local businesses.
One example may be shown by the events witnessed at a recent Middlefield Village Council meeting, a company in the area called Dillen Products, located in Middlefield Ohio, was told that their request for an extension of an existing tax abatement was not good for the township. Further they were informed that the Village Council was not in favor of it. What was discovered later in that meeting is that the ultimate decision on this matter could really come down to the local school board since they are the recipients of the capital which this abatement could reduce.
From a news report by Lois Hewitt, reporter for the Weekly Villager in Garrettsville Ohio, “A representative from Dillen Manufacturing asked Council to consider extending a tax abatement which is set to expire soon” The council did not respond with an immediate answer, and it was discussed for a while, ending with council asking for time to consider the legal ramifications of this request. It was agreed that they would all try and work together to come up with a plan to work this issue out in the best way possible. The Dillen representative suggested that if they cannot get this abatement extended then it could cause them to evaluate moving out of Middlefield.
So to me this is proof that a local Council along with the town’s Mayor does exert some control over the businesses which fall under their jurisdiction. The Council and Mayor could try and work with the company to get the local school board to allow this abatement, or if the school board feels they really need the money they can vote no, and the company is then back on the hook for the tax monies.
In recent weeks the Village Council, and Mayor had offered to go with the management representative from Dillen to the School Board and open discussions on what could be done to help Dillen keep the existing tax abatement in place, which is probably a great idea in light of the economic difficulties we are all facing right now. We were hoping these discussions would turn out to be helpful to Dillen.
This puts the local company in a precarious situation where on one hand they certainly want to help finance the school systems, but at the same time they need to be concerned with keeping their doors open. One would think with all the problems we are facing in terms of high unemployment and rising numbers of foreclosures that keeping jobs in our towns would be the highest priority! In fact if this factory closes the school would definitely lose even more money, so it is to their advantage to work with the companies to find some common ground where they can meet.
If the town leaders are doing their job enhancing economic development then they would be mediators and problem solvers, and should never stand in the way of a company which is trying hard to stay solvent. It is time all groups involved in such important discussions try hard to see things from all sides and perhaps come up with some compromises!
As of the village council “Finance and Ordinance Committee” meeting minutes from August 5th, 2010 it has been decided that extending the tax abatement for Dillen will not be recommended by the finance committee. Council member R. Seyer is quoted as saying “the abatement has already been extended twice which is the limit,” and he essentially summarized that; without revisiting the entire process according to Ohio Senate Bill 19, it would be like starting from scratch. This bill outlines the methods in which villages, and cities may approve tax abatements within their business development plans.
So according to these same Village Council meeting minutes, Mayor Bill Poole Jr. suggested “the village might consider other avenues that the village could offer companies other than tax abatements” It was also suggested by D. Weir – Village Administrator, that “the village does offer a hiring credit which is given if the company hires more than 25 people and keeps them on the payroll for 2 years or more.” This seems to be a very restrictive program, and the amount of the credit and length of term was not discussed. Hopefully these ideas will lead to positive discussions which will help Dillen and Middlefield Village come to some meaningful agreement.
So no matter which elected official you support or follow, there is a strong chance that some of his or her policy views and decisions will eventually affect your personal economic situation directly. For example a local mayor could vote with his council to not renew a particular tax abatement for a large manufacturing company in your town. This could cause that factory to lay off workers and shut down divisions.
The Mayor and Council are at least tying to find ways to work with Dillen, and this kind of commitment to team work is admirable, and hopefully this will continue long after the economy stabilizes as it is good for our community to work together!
Lois Hewitt – Reporter, Weekly Villager, Garrettsville Ohio.
Middlefield Village Finance and Ordinance Committee Meeting Minutes August 5th, 2010
View meeting minutes on line: www.middlefieldohio.com
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