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Commissioners Approve Revitalization Plan

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The Board of County Commissioners approved a new five-year Neighborhood Revitalization Plan on Tuesday, but not before discussion that included commissioner Tim Mueller saying he would sign the plan under protest.

Nobody from the public attended the public hearing on the new plan, which changes the county’s Neighborhood Revitalization Plan from a three-year graduated tax rebate program to a five-year one. The tax rebate percentages on the new plan are 100 percent the first year, 80 percent the second year, 60 percent the third year, 40 percent the fourth year and 20 percent the fifth year.

Commissioner David Willbrant said he wanted to see a five-year, 100-percent rebate. He said the increased tax break would promote growth.

“I look at it as an investment in our future,” he said. “What we’ve been doing isn’t working. I want to be aggressive. We need to foster growth. Let’s try something else.”

Commissioner Gary Ouellette said the county has been in the current NRP for only a year, so how does anyone know if it’s not working?

Ouellette said he was concerned about giving a five-year, 100-percent rebate because the tax burden will fall increasingly hard on others.

“If we give a five-year abatement to everyone who builds a house or a business or who adds on to their business we will have a lot of people not paying taxes ” Ouellette said.

Commissioner Tim Mueller said property taxes are going to impact people especially hard this year because of the change in valuations, and the thought of farmers who will struggle with their property taxes keeps him up at night, he said.

He said the county had received 12 budget requests as of Tuesday morning, and those 12 didn’t include the largest one – Road and Bridge. He said budget requests from those 12 that were submitted add up to more than $268,000 over last year’s. He added that while the commissioners don’t have to grant those requests, county departments are requesting more money.

He told his fellow commissioners that he thinks cities and private businesses need to contribute to the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan; it shouldn’t be only the county providing tax breaks.

He also said he was frustrated with comments from people that they didn’t know anything about the Neighborhood Revitalization Plan.

He said people need to accept some responsibility for looking into programs that could save them money; the county has advertised the program in several ways.

Mueller then said he would sign the proposed NRP, but it would be under protest.

“I think the compliance clause should be in there, but those administering it think the compliance aspect will be too much work.”

A few weeks ago he said he wanted this proposed plan to require applicants to be free of violations from entities including OSHA.

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