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Dixon Public Schools hears enterprise zone proposal

DIXON — Dixon Public Schools was asked to amend its participation in the Lee-Ogle Enterprise Zone by agreeing to expand incentives, including tax abatements.

Andy Shaw, administrator of the zone on behalf of the Blackhawk Hills Regional Council and Kevin Marx of the Lee County Industrial Development Association made the presentation on Wednesday to the board of education.

“We are asking that Dixon taxing districts join the new tiered strategy,” Shaw said. “Allow us to be competitive with other parts of our zone and competing communities in our greater region.”

Marx said it was an important tool to differentiate the enterprise zone from other areas when it comes to business recruitment and job retention.

The school district is already a participant in the enterprise zone, having agreed in 2017 to an incentive plan that offers a 50% tax abatement per year for six years to new businesses, so long as they continue 75% employment.

What the enterprise zone is doing, Shaw explained, was asking taxing bodies to sign on to an enhancement. These enhancements are not designed to a specific project, rather it is part of a ready-made package that can be used to demonstrate that the community is behind industry recruitment.

“It’s a set structure so this doesn’t have to be done every time a company comes to the board asking for a deal,” Shaw said.

These are the two new tiers:

Extended abatement. A project would get an additional four years of 50% tax abatement in exchange for a capital investment of $50 million and the creation of 75 new jobs.

High-impact abatement. A project would get an additional 10 years of 50% abatement in exchange for $100 million capital investment and 125 new jobs offering $50,000 per year salary and benefits.

In both tiers, the project benefiting from the tax abatement would have to maintain employment at 95%

As an aside, Marc Campbell, DPS business manager, said during his report that the district will see an additional $80,000 in property taxes in the coming year from enterprise zone businesses that have hit their six years and are losing abatement status.

Business report

Campbell had three items of information about district finances:

  1. About 21% of Gov. JB Pritzker’s proposed operating budget is dedicated to Pre-K to 12 education. It’s an increase of $498 million. That includes $350 million for the evidence-based funding formula, which directs money to schools that are determined to be farthest from their adequacy target. The budget asks for another $54.4 million for early childhood education services for 7,100 children and $96 million in transportation and special education grants. The regional offices of education would get $12 to address truancy and chronic absenteeism. Ag education funding gets a $2 million increase.
  2. WIPFLI, the district auditor, completed a single audit on federal monies. The audit was clean with no major findings or issues of compliance.
  3. In April 2017, the board OK’d an interfund loan of $669,614.39 from the working cash fund to the transportation fund. This loan has not been paid back by the district. During this fiscal year, the district incurred a vendor increase of 7%. Revenues from the state are based on the previous year’s expenses, which during covid, were $370,000 less. This creates a likely scenario of an operational shortfall. Campbell has worked with the auditors, which say the district can either partially abate some of the loan and repay the other portion of the loan or forgive the interfund loan entirely. A memorandum will be provided at the March meeting and it will be an action item for the April meeting.

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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