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Council delays vote on tax break

Company defends against criticism

The Fort Wayne City Council delayed action on a tax abatement for a local company after concerns were raised about its past performance with tax incentives.

The council unanimously delayed voting on an abatement for a $543,500 investment by Calico Precision Molding after several members said they would have opposed it without more time to gather information. The company is in the custom plastic and rubber injection molding industry.

The company is planning to expand its operations and create 15 new jobs with a total new payroll of $377,800. The company employs 33 full-time and one part-time employees with a payroll of $1.1 million, according to documents filed with the city.

Tom Lewandowski, president of the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, attacked the tax abatement request, saying the company has not lived up to its past promises when granted government help.

Lewandowski has been a consistent presence at council meetings questioning abatement policy, but this is the first specific one he has questioned at a public hearing.

He argued Tuesday that Calico has not met its obligations on previous tax breaks.

For example, in 2008 the company employed 46 people when it asked for an abatement with the promise of adding 20 additional employees. The abatement was received, but the company has since cut jobs instead of adding them.

“We’re concerned about what happens to most of the folks who work out there,” Lewandowski said.

Lewandowski also noted that one of the owners of the company is Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters, although he has no role in the council’s approval of the tax break.

Teresa Gooding, the company’s representative at the council meeting, said the company did make the investments promised in previous abatement applications. Unfortunately, she said, it had to cut employees because the recession crippled the automotive and RV industry, where Calico sold much of what it manufactured.

“The recession hit and we did have to lose employees,” she said.

Elissa McGauley, abatement specialist for the city, said state law doesn’t allow a community to rescind a tax break because of a recession. Several council members asked to see the law before making a decision on the new tax break.

If the abatement is approved, the company would save $38,156 in property taxes over a decade. In that same 10 years, it would pay $27,866 in additional property taxes on the new investment.

Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, was one of several members to ask for additional information and time before voting on the abatement. Didier said he would have opposed it Tuesday.

The council has recently begun examining its tax abatement policy and last week defeated a proposed abatement for a medical office.

“We’re here to help,” Didier said, “but after some time, you’ve got to come through.”

The council is scheduled to talk about the issue again in two weeks.

blanka@jg.net

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