City officials approved a $3.4 million tax abatement for a local printing company that recently was awarded a federal contract.

The Seymour City Council voted 5-0 to approve RR Donnelley's 10-year abatement request for equipment that will allow the company to hire 20 temporary workers. It will retain its 123 employees.

Councilman Jim Rebber was absent from the meeting, and Councilman Darrin Boas abstained from the vote.

Mary Winburn with Jackson County Industrial Development Corp. presented the request with Christopher Booth, the company’s director of operations.

RR Donnelley, 709 A Ave. East in the Freeman Field Industrial Park, will begin the project March 1 and plans to complete it by September 2020.

Tax abatements allow companies to ease into paying property taxes on new investments. Property taxes start at zero but increase by 10 percent each year until companies are paying the full amount in taxes.

Booth said the equipment purchase will help the company secure future contracts, which could lead to growth in business and jobs.

“This positions us well for other opportunities,” he told the council.

Booth declined to say what the contract was for, but he told the council it was vital for the company to purchase the equipment to complete the project.

“We need it to perform the project,” he said. “Without it, we cannot do it.”

While Booth declined to comment on the details of the project, the company was awarded a $114 million contract Jan. 8 by the U.S. Government Publishing Office, according to a news release from the agency. The contract is for production of materials used for the public to respond to the 2020 Census, including questionnaires, letters, inserts, postcards and envelopes.

Materials will be produced throughout the Chicago-based company’s locations across the country. It is the world’s largest printing company.

Seymour resident Steven Buffington, who regularly attends council meetings and sought the at-large seat during a recent appointment process, told the council he did not support the abatement because it only included temporary jobs and was only for a project that would be over in a year.

Mayor Craig Luedeman, who does not vote on the matter, said he felt the abatement would allow a local company to be competitive for future projects.

Councilman Matt Nicholson, who is seeking the Republican nomination for mayor, said the council could address the abatement later if the company has less jobs after the request was approved.

“If they’re down, we don’t have to renew compliance,” he said.

Copyright © 2019 The Tribune