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SOUTH RANGE Schools question tax break for store



Published: Thu, September 22, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



School district lawyers are questioning the propriety of the tax incentive deal.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

SALEM -- South Range School District officials are questioning a tax break the city offered to Home Depot.

The district has requested copies of public records from the city regarding a tax increment financing project for the store, which opened several weeks ago.

The store is in Salem's city limits but is within the boundaries of South Range schools.

Written statement

School officials could not be reached to comment, but said in a written statement that Salem is "reportedly reimbursing itself for infrastructure improvements" it had already made in the vicinity of Home Depot.

"Seventy-five percent of property taxes generated from the Home Depot store over 10 years are being diverted to Salem for these facilities, rather than going toward education," the statement says.

The school district says it appears that the tax increment financing "scheme" was unrelated to Home Depot's decision to locate in Salem.

Salem Mayor Larry DeJane says the tax increment financing project was reviewed by the city's legal counsel and is legal.

No approval needed

He said the city did not seek South Range's approval before entering into the agreement with Home Depot because it was not required to do so under the law.

He referred further questions to city Law Director C. Brooke Zellers, who was not available to comment.

In an Aug. 30 letter to the city, a school district attorney asked for records related to the agreement between Salem and Home Depot, including payroll records for construction work related to the project.

The district's statement says payroll records were requested because the city is required by law to pay South Range a part of city income taxes generated by the Home Depot project.

"We have to respond to the records request; there is no question about that," DeJane said.

He was not sure whether the city has all the information being requested, but said the city will provide what it can.

bjackson@vindy.com




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