(Posted Dec. 22, 2016)
By Linda Dillman, Staff Writer
Jefferson Local Schools and Jefferson Industries may be locked in a legal dispute regarding property tax values, but that didn’t prevent the company from asking the school district to fast-track a 100 percent tax abatement on a proposed expansion of its manufacturing facility.
Jefferson Industries asked for a 15-year tax abatement on a proposed $7.5 million expansion that would create 22 jobs.
The school board—along with West Jefferson village officials, Jefferson Town-ship officials and Jefferson Industries representatives—met in a special session on Dec. 16. The school board approved the abatement, with Jefferson Industries agreeing to pay the district a one-time $200,000 compensation in lieu of future taxes for the first phase of the expansion.
School Superintendent William Mullett said the deal also includes another potential payment of $150,000 for a second $5 million expansion phase “down the road.”
Now that the school district has approved the abatement, the agreement goes before West Jefferson village council on Jan. 3 and the Madison County com-missioners on Jan. 9.
Mullett said the abatement request came with “a sense of urgency” because another Jefferson Industries plant in Georgia was vying for the same project. According to Mullett, typically the district has months to discuss abatement requests.
If Jefferson Industries were to build the expansion at its West Jefferson site without a tax abatement—at the current effective school millage as determined by the county auditor—the company would be responsible for approximately $950,000 in taxes over a 15-year period.
Separate from the tax abatement, the school district and Jefferson Industries have been in a three-year legal battle over the company’s request for a reduction in property tax value. In October, Mullett said the Supreme Court handed down a decision based on a complaint the company filed with the county Board of Revision to have its property value reduced from $34.5 million to $18 million.
The school district filed a counter-complaint asking that the county leave Jefferson Industries’ value unchanged.
Mullett said the county previously reduced the company’s property valuation in 2012 from $34.5 million to $28 million, resulting in a potential $70,000 refund from the school district to Jefferson Industries. While unhappy with the decision, the district accepted the ruling and was prepared to move on, he said.
However, shortly after the hearing, the company filed an appeal to the state tax board to re-value its property at $10.4 million. The county and the state reviewed the property and came to the same $28 million conclusion. Jefferson Industries then filed the appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vacated the case to the Ohio Board of Tax Appeals for reconsideration, after making two rulings in favor of the board.