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If you cut their taxes, will they come?

Genoa City officials talk about program to entice business owners

May 19, 2010 | 08:57 AM
Genoa City — There are more for sale signs in the front windows of village business properties than there are open signs.

The old days of a hardware store, a pharmacy and a movie theater in downtown Genoa City are long gone. Now, with the village's business sector fading into memory, why would anyone want to establish an operation in the village and peddle their wares?

On Thursday, May 13, Phil Cosson, of the village's financial consultant firm Ehlers & Associates, discussed the idea of a business incentive program.

Cosson said Village President Barry Goad and Village Treasurer Claudia Jurewicz asked him to help them brainstorm ideas on how to bring businesses into Genoa City. Goad talked about it in a previous Regional News article, and the incentive idea had been discussed at the Finance Committee level.

Now, it appears the village's Economic Development and Zoning Committee will look at ways to establish what may be a series of tax breaks for businesses that come to town.

Goad said that's what other big-name franchises wanted in the past. However, the village has no mechanisms in place to provide tax breaks.

"Walgreen's, two or three years ago, was looking for something to push them closer to that edge," he said.

Although village officials haven't adopted any kind of incentive program yet, Cosson discussed the concept and its limits. He distributed a packet which he said is a "concept" for such a program.

Essentially, the village has some ability to help businesses with tax breaks.

Village taxpayers are charged by several entities. The state, Walworth County, Gateway Technical College and Brookwood and Badger High school districts are some of them.

So is the village, which in 1987 established a Tax Incremental Financing district to help fund infrastructure improvements.

According to Cosson, taxes from businesses within that district are paid only to the village. Although the TIF district encompasses most of the village, there are properties outside its boundaries.

Cosson said the district boundaries cannot be extended.

"If somebody moved into town and wanted to locate outside the (district) boundaries, you wouldn't be able to assist them," he said.

That's without a business tax incentive program, but there's another catch.

"With this program the village could only provide an incentive with the village's portion of the tax bill," Cosson said.

That means the village couldn't offset a local business owner's taxes from the state, Walworth County, the schools or any other taxing bodies. Although it could provide incentives by reducing some of tax amounts paid to Genoa City, that's money the village could use toward providing services and maintaining infrastructure.

Basically, that was one of Trustee and Economic Development and Zoning Committee Chairman Ed Lilla's concern.

"You're right," Cosson said to Lilla. "It is shifting around some of the burden."

However, in response to Lilla's concern that some new business owner may only come to town for three or four years then leave, Cosson said one requirement for someone to benefit from a proposed incentive program would be for them to create a development agreement with the village. Within that agreement, both parties could agree on a time in which that business would stay in Genoa City.

"The incentive would be based upon the development meeting certain criteria," Cosson said.

He suggested the Village Board adopt certain guidelines before establishing a business tax incentive program. Cosson provided types of projects, rules for the application process and other ground-level examples in his handout.

He said he expects village officials to modify and shift those examples.

"I would start with what type of projects you would like to entice. You can target or earmark certain types of development," Cosson said.

In response to a question by Trustee Bill Antti, Cosson said the village could not create another TIF district until the current one is closed out, which is estimated to take place around 2015.

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