The Garage Door Group, the first company to locate in the East Hills Business Park, will receive a partial abatement from property taxes on the equipment at its Lawrence facility after all.
The Lawrence City Commission, at its Tuesday meeting, extended a 50 percent tax abatement on the equipment to Garage Door Group for a 10-year period. The abatement will save GDG approximately $98,605 in taxes over a 10-year period, based on an analysis from the city.
The commission approved the abatement on a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Mike Rundle dissenting. Rundle has pushed for more detailed cost-benefit analyses to accompany requests for property tax relief.
THE ABATEMENT didn't come before commissioners drew fire from a Lawrence resident who criticized the city for "subsidizing" a private business and who accused the commission of letting the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce call the economic development shots for the city.
"As a taxpayer, I simply want to record an objection to having my money used to subsidize profit-oriented corporations and to having decisions about the distribution of that money made by a private pressure group whose meetings are closed to the public," said Tim Miller, 620 Ind.
The commission also was questioned extensively on its abatement policies by Allen Ford, a Kansas University business professor.
Ford told commissioners he wasn't opposed to the GDG abatement, but said the city should begin having more detailed analysis of abatement requests.
The comments from Ford and Miller drew the ire of Commissioner David Penny. He noted that both men are professors at Kansas University, which Penny said has been "abated for a hundred years . . . at 100 percent."
"I DON'T think it's correct," Penny said, "for people who are working for employers who have 100 percent abatement in our community to come down and complain."
Penny said he was opposed in theory to tax abatements but said that in practice Lawrence needed to offer the 50 percent abatements to qualified businesses or else risk losing them to other communities, some of which offer up to 100 percent tax abatements.
Bill Martin, director of the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce's economic development marketing program, also disputed Miller's assertions. He said the chamber leaves decisions on abatements to the commission.
"I never promise anybody anything when it comes to something the city commission is going to have to take action on," Martin said. "You have a policy and we review that with the clients. They understand that they are going to have to come before the city commission, and it's going to be discussed publicly."
The city, in late 1989, granted a 10-year, 50 percent abatement on the land and building that houses the Garage Door Group. That abatement was given to RAM Co., which leases the building to Garage Door Group.
Martin said he erred when he didn't include the Garage Door Group's request for an equipment abatement along with the original RAM Co. request.