Niles trustees cleared up a rift Tuesday that dated from their Dec. 11 meeting and caused some to accuse them of being anti-business.
The board voted 5-0 to approve a tax break for an existing Niles company called Gustafson Group LLC. Gustafson, which owns a printing operation that already employs 131 people in Niles, sought the tax break as part of a deal to buy and renovate a dilapidated Niles building that had been vacant since January 2008.
The tax break, called a Cook County 6B Development Incentive, is designed to entice businesses to develop abandoned or long-vacant property.
At the December board meeting, Trustee Chris Hanusiak expressed concern that lowering taxes for Gustafson might cause taxes to rise for Niles residents and other businesses. Trustees voted 4-1 at that time to table the issue until more could be learned; that move caused Mayor Robert Callero, Trustee Andrew Przybylo and residents Harry Achino and Norbert Johnson to protest, saying the board should have acted to help Gustafson, a family-owned business looking to expand in Niles.
At a Jan. 8 "Informal Consideration" meeting, in which the Niles board meets to discuss issues but holds off from voting until official board meetings, the village's finance director, Scot Neukirch, explained that granting 6Bs typically do not hurt other taxpayers, nor do they hurt taxing bodies. The reason is that owners of vacant properties pay very little in property taxes; they would pay more under a 6B, generating more revenue for the village, the schools and other taxing bodies.
Neukirch gave the example of a $1.675 million market value commercial property, which pays a property tax bill of $84,317 when it is occupied.
However, if it went vacant it would pay only $22,594. With a 6B, it would pay $33,000 in property taxes, he said-- $11,000 more than if it were vacant.
"Taxing bodies typically do not lose any revenue due to the issuance of a 6B," Neukirch said.
That set the stage for a quick and easy approval of 6B status for the Gustafson Group at Tuesday's meeting.