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County Republicans want no more rules for tax abatements

St. Joseph County Republicans continue moving a bill to repeal the county’s 15-year-old tax abatement ordinance, to make the process easier for businesses.

Council Republicans Amy Drake and Joe Thomas have sponsored a bill to eliminate the ordinance. Instead, businesses seeking tax breaks in exchange for creating and retaining jobs would fill out an application and negotiate a deal with the county.

South Bend Regional Chamber President Jeff Rea, the former mayor of Mishawaka, said Mishawaka hasn't had an abatement ordinance for years and it's worked well there.

"Everybody that we've talked with that's ever navigated your process has said it's really complicated," Rea told the council at a Land Use Planning Committee meeting Tuesday. "You have the reputation of being the most complicated in the state. And we think now's the time, with the spotlight focusing on St. Joseph County (because of the General Motors battery plant coming), to try to make it somewhat simple."

But at a council Land Use Planning Committee meeting Tuesday, Bill Schalliol, the county’s economic development director, asked Drake to slow the bill down. Schalliol said he’s not opposed to simplifying the process but he noted that Drake and Thomas didn’t seek his input.

"Maybe we could have some work sessions or an education session, or something like that," Schalliol told the council. "Our office wasn't involved in writing this new abatement ordinance so we're sort of catching it on the back end."

Council Democrats also said more time is needed before such a big change.

But Drake was unswayed. On her motion, the committee voted 4-3 along party lines to send the bill to the full council with a favorable recommendation.

Parrott, a longtime public radio fan, comes to WVPE with about 25 years of journalism experience at newspapers in Indiana and Michigan, including 13 years at The South Bend Tribune. He and Kristi live in Granger and have two children currently attending Indiana University in Bloomington. In his free time he enjoys fixing up their home, following his favorite college and professional sports teams, and watching TV (yes that's an acceptable hobby).