County reverses rebate approach

Allen County Commissioners remove tiers in the Neighborhood Revitalization Program, committing to provide a 100% rebate for the full 10 years.

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February 28, 2024 - 2:07 PM

Commissioner Bruce Symes explains that he thinks the stair-step approach for the Neighborhood Revitalization Program is a good idea, but doesn’t like the idea of spending $45,250 on new programming to accommodate the difference. With the county choosing to align with the other program participants, the fee will go away. Photo by Sarah Haney

Back to the drawing board.

That’s where Allen County Commissioners found themselves Tuesday morning when faced with a dilemma regarding their approach to the Neighborhood Revitalization Program (NRP).

Allen County Treasurer Crickett Maley explained to commissioners that their stair-step approach would result in needing to purchase new programming to the tune of $45,250.

The county’s programming company, Computer Information Concepts (CIC), informed Maley that the NRP would have to have new custom-programming “due to the change to a tiered rebate system.”

The NRP offers a tax rebate to Iola property owners who make improvements, such as new structures or remodeling efforts, to their properties. The rebate is equal to the amount their property taxes increase because of the improvements.

The city, county, school district and Allen Community College participate in the revitalization program by agreeing to dedicate funds from their mill levies to encourage local homeowners and business owners to improve their properties.

Prior to 2022, the participating entities had agreed to offer a 100% rebate for the first six years and every year after that decrease the tax rebate by 20%.

In December 2022, the county agreed to renew its participation in the program for 2024, but to maintain the stair-step approach to the plan.

The other entities were content with changing their commitment in the plan to provide a 100% rebate for the full 10 years.

Allen County Treasurer Crickett Maley (left), with the help of County Clerk Shannon Patterson, explains to commissioners the issue with the Neighborhood Revitalization Program’s varying approaches. Maley noted that by the county using a stair-step approach, it would ultimately cost them $45,250 for new computer programming. Photo by Sarah Haney / Iola Register

“We’re the odd ones out because we’re staying the same,” said Commissioner Bruce Symes. Maley clarified that this is an entirely new 10-year plan. “Because it’s a different plan than what we’ve had in the past, where everyone is staggered, we have to do a whole new programming. If everyone was the same in the program, it would just be a matter of going in and setting the next 10-year plan.”

Maley said she has confirmed with CIC that the new system wouldn’t need to be purchased if the county were to change their commitment to align with the other entities. She stressed that there is a time crunch associated with the implementation of the new plan. “Our main concern is the timeline,” she said. “It’s going to take CIC six months to get it implemented, and that’s conservative.”

Symes noted that the county hadn’t changed their contribution, but he felt as though they were being penalized for staying the same. “This was Iola’s proposal that they go 10 years at 100%,” Symes said. “We wanted to stay in the graduated system for NRP. They’re making the change. We’re not making the change, but we’re footing the bill because we do the program and have to figure the taxes.”

Commissioner David Lee said while the $45,250 price tag for the new programming was “crazy,” he also isn’t a fan of the 10-year commitment.

While not their preferred route, the commissioners agreed to change their commitment from the staggered approach to be aligned with the other involved entities and eliminate the new programming charge.

IN OTHER NEWS, Director of Allen Regional Transit (ART) Jeff Keithly returned to the commission to discuss the two public transportation services in the county. ART is a non-profit service started by Thrive Allen County that provides public transportation to all Allen County residents.

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