FORT WAYNE – Allen County Council members approved an estimated $6.6 million property tax break for General Motors on Thursday in hopes of luring a $94.5 million investment in the assembly plants paint shop.
GM Plant Manager Mike Glinski told the County Council that the investment is crucial to keeping the plant on par with its GM peers and competitors, and the property tax break on the new equipment will help persuade GM to approve the project.
Glinski said the project will replace and renovate the robots in the paint shop, some of which are original to the plant, built in the early 1980s. And while the project – if approved – would not add any new jobs, it would ensure that the 3,800 full-time jobs currently at the plant remain.
Usually, the property tax breaks the county offers are phase-ins, where the increase in taxes a property owner would pay on a new building or equipment are phased in over a period of up to 10 years.
But when the plant was lured to the area, part of the package included approving it for the maximum benefit of any incentive able to be offered.
The break approved Thursday lets GM skip paying the estimated $564,335 in new taxes on the equipment yearly for 10 years.
The council voted 6-0 to approve the tax relief; member Bill Brown, R-at large, was absent during the vote.
HR system upgrade
County Council members also approved spending $315,702 for a human resources information system. Currently, officials said, the county human resources department uses a plethora of spreadsheets, which is inefficient and outdated. County officials had set aside up to $500,000 in this years budget for the project.
During the budget appeals portion of their meeting, the council approved about $732,000 in additions to the 2014 budget.
County Auditor Tera Klutz told the council it has about $91 million to spend next year, but county departments had about $91.9 million in requests. Six departments that said they had to have more money made presentations to the council Thursday afternoon.
Sheriff Ken Fries asked for $469,750 to be added to his $23.3 million budget, with $400,000 of that for 16 new squad cars. The rest was for a new chief financial officer for the department, a position the council had asked him to create.
Council members approved funds for the new position, plus $200,000 toward the cars, with the direction that Fries pay the rest out of his commissary account, which he had already tapped this year to pay for seven SUVs for the department.
The measure was approved 4-2, with Roy Buskirk and Bob Armstrong, both R-at large, voting no. Brown was present for the vote, but council member Kevin Howell, R-1st, was absent.
Boost for juvenile center
A measure to increase funding for the Allen County Juvenile Center by $228,080 was approved unanimously. Much of that funding will pay for increased security at the center, which Judge Dan Heath said is stretched far too thin. The council also unanimously approved $198,536 in additional money for Superior Court, which had asked for $298,536, with the understanding that they may be back in the year seeking more money.
I just feel like weve asked them to cut the last three years and theyve been trying to reduce it, said Darren Vogt, R-3rd. But Id rather see this, which I think is more a true budget number, than something thats artificially cut.
The increases approved Thursday will all come from about $2 million that was set aside in the County Council budget for capital improvements.