There was a lot of discussion at this week’s county council meeting about “playing the game” and the costs that come with it.

The Henry County Council voted unanimously to offer Boar’s Head Provisions a six-year, 100 percent tax abatement for a new potential new plant.

The company already operates a processing plant and a distribution center on CR 400 S.

Earlier this year, Boar’s Head reported 476 employees. A third facility could bring as many as 50 more jobs in the next few years.

New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. Director Corey Murphy told the County Council Thursday that Henry County is competing with other communities around the country for this new processing plant.

Murphy said he wasn’t sure exactly which states Henry County is competing with. His educated guess is Ohio or Virginia.

Both those states offer property tax breaks of some kind to companies like Boar’s Head, Murphy said.

Murphy recommended the council offer a 100 percent abatement on property taxes to the company for six years in order to stay competitive.

Under that agreement, Boar’s Head would pay no property taxes on the real estate, the building or equipment inside the building for six years.

A question of terms

Council member Peg Stefandel questioned Murphy’s recommendation during Thursday’s meeting.

“How much in real estate taxes are we giving up by giving them this abatement?” Stefandel asked.

Murphy said the deal would save Boar’s Head approximately $1.7 million in local property taxes over the next six years.

Stefandel suggested the county could offer a more traditional abatement that would create more revenue for the county government sooner.

“Have you ever considered just doing an increment one where they get 100 percent the first year, and then 80 percent the next year, 60 percent the next year? Has anybody ever done that?” Stefandel asked.

The Henry County Council gave a tax abatement structured like this to Boar’s Head as an incentive to build its first plant in the New Castle-Henry County Industrial Park. The council gave a 100 percent abatement to the distribution center a few years later.

Based on her figures, Stefandel didn’t think the promised new workers would make up the difference in property tax revenue that Henry County was offering to the company.

“The county’s not making any money,” Stefandel said. “But the incentive doesn’t have to be 100 percent. I think there are other ways to get people into this county.”

Council member Chad Malicoat, who serves on the council’s Tax Abatement Committee, said the committee brought up similar questions about the abatement terms.

“The end-of-the-day difference between a traditional 10-year, 10 percent step-down and a six-year, 100 percent (abatement) equaled out to roughly 10 percent difference,” Malicoat said. “The advantage to straight six year is Boar’s Head gets their money up front, we get more money faster ... We’re going to get a bigger chunk faster, they’re going to have more money to invest up front.”

Malicoat also said Boar’s Head was “over-achieving from an abatement requirement perspective” because they had hired more people than they’d originally promised to under the original tax abatements.

Council member Clay Morgan added to the conversation, referring to tax abatements as “a necessary evil” that Henry County has to use to compete with other states.

Murphy said tax incentives like he was recommending make “good sites better.”

“Without the incentives, there wouldn’t be a plant out there and there wouldn’t be 500 jobs,” Murphy said. “I’ll be the first to lay down the ‘incentive war,’ so to speak, when the other 92 counties in Indiana do the same and the other 50 states also do the same.”

Stefandel said she wasn’t opposed to the idea of offering Boar’s Head some sort of tax break. She just didn’t think it was fair that citizens have to pay property taxes and income taxes while companies are offered these incentives.

“I’m not against an abatement. I’m just against the 100 percent. I think they should pay their fair share,” Stefandel said.

Public hearing

Council president Susan Huhn accepted public comment before asking the council to formally consider the abatement.

Several members of the Henry County government spoke in favor of the deal.

New Castle-Henry County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Shaun DuFault said it will be a good thing for business and employment in Henry County.

“From a Chamber perspective of wanting success for Henry County, I can’t see why we would not want (this),” DuFault said.

President Huhn also read a letter from Henry County REMC CEO Shannon Thom in favor of the tax abatement for the proposed new facility.

“We believe the additional investment from Boar’s Head will be beneficial to the community, as well as the REMC,” the letter read. “Yes, we will benefit from increased revenue. As a non-profit, member-owned electric cooperative, revenue is not our priority. The communities we serve and the people in those communities are our priority.”

Thom wrote that, in his experience, Boar’s Head is a company that gives back to the community.

County Surveyor Steve Rust thanked Boar’s Head for coming to town and “putting this place back together.”

Rust said he would have appreciated having the same tax incentives while he was a private business owner, but “the only way this county is going to survive is with these abatements.”

More council comments

Council member Morgan also spoke in favor of the abatement resolution before the vote was taken.

“For many, many years, we’ve continuously heard ‘we need more jobs in Henry County,’” Morgan said. “We have a tremendous employer that has decided to call this home, and we have an opportunity to provide more jobs.”

Morgan pointed out the Henry County Council has instituted several new taxes in the past few years that are based on income that could make up the difference in Boar’s Head’s property tax break.

“These jobs will actually increase the funding of Henry County government. It will not deduct from Henry County government.” Morgan said. “We also fulfill our obligation ... we will provide more jobs.”

Henry County resident Steve Peckinpaugh asked how many of Boar’s Heads current workforce actually live in Henry County, rather than commuting here.

Morgan said that is a difficult question to answer. He said it is made even more difficult by common problems that many local businesses are facing when trying to fill positions: some people don’t want to work.

“There are many Henry County residents that can’t keep a job there because they won’t show up for work. And that’s disappointing in itself,” Morgan said.

Council member Harold Griffin said drug use in the community also limits the local worker pool.

When the resolution to grant the tax abatement finally came up for a vote, every member of the Henry County Council voted in favor of it.

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