Tax abatements being reviewed by Ironton, school board

Published 10:18 am Friday, March 21, 2014

The Community Reinvestment Act benefits all of Lawrence County, but city, county and school officials met on Tuesday to discuss possibly amending or modifying abatements offered to businesses in the City of Ironton.

“It’s not a 100 percent abatement, it’s a deferral,” Kristen Martin, Ironton Finance Director, said. “It defers property taxes for a period of time and there’s no set timeframe. Some are different. The money comes in, just not right away.”

Martin said the city’s ordinances — Nos. 83-60 and 83-61 adopted in 1983 and unchanged since — could be amended so the language allows the city, and subsequently the school district, to get the money sooner.

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Ironton City Schools Superintendent Dean Nance attended the meeting and said the need to attract businesses and any other forms of economic development goes hand-in-hand with the need to maintain a high-quality education system.

“It’s tough when the school’s money is funded through taxes and there is at the same time a need to attract businesses; you can’t throw out the baby with the bath water,” he said. “It seems like city council is working well with the schools and the mayor to look at the rules and regulations to see if they’re fair and in compliance. We just want them to be cognizant that when people ask about a tax abatement they look at the timeframe and the amount.”

Ironton Mayor Rich Blankenship said the current ordinances are part of establishing the Community Reinvestment Act and although it is a county plan, it does outline certain tax abatement guidelines for businesses within the City of Ironton in particular.

“A lot of the money generated from business taxes goes toward to the school district,” Blankenship said. “We are just seeing if any changes need to be made. It’s a group effort among the school district, the township trustees, the (Ironton-Lawrence County Community Action Organization) and the Lawrence Economic Development Corporation.”

The length and amount of the abatements offered are two key components being reviewed by the parties involved, Blankenship said, and the type of business and number of jobs created matters with regard to abatements.

“It’s a good conversation to have because it means things are happening that make us have to look at it and consider amending or modifying the ordinance,” Blankenship said. “We need to keep up with the times and get language we all can agree on. We are brainstorming and all wanting to work together. Everyone’s attitude is to move forward.”

Any modifications or amendments made to the ordinance should be done in the next few weeks, Blankenship said.

Nance said that he feels as though communities with thriving economies tend to have exceptional school systems.

“We want to be a partner in bringing in businesses and economic development but still maintain our high-quality education system,” Nance said. “We are on the cusp of a lot of economic development and when everyone works together it just makes for a better community.”