By ED RUNYAN
Mayor Arno Hill walked out of village council chambers smiling Wednesday night, not just because it was his birthday but because council had approved a 10-year, 75 percent tax abatement for a proposed TJX/HomeGoods warehouse in the village.
“I’m smiling. This is a good way to start the new year,” he said of the vote. “It’s a great birthday present.”
Two council members, Karen Jones and Robert Bond, made the approval slower by voting against allowing it to be approved as an emergency, and with other no votes along the way.
Both spoke at the meeting about their dislike for tax abatements, but Jones asked Lordstown school board members during a public comment period how they felt and concluded they are “Ok with this,” and decided to vote yes.
The abatement reduces property taxes HomeGoods will pay by 75 percent. Property tax abatements affect the schools more than other government bodies, such as the village.
The abatement does not affect the amount of income taxes that will be paid by construction workers and employees working at the facility after it is built in a couple of years. The village collects income taxes.
The 4-1 vote allowed the abatement to move on to the Trumbull County commissioners, who are expected to consider and approve it in the coming weeks.
Lordstown’s approval won’t take effect for 30 days, so that will limit how fast the county commissioners can finalize it, said Nick Coggins, interim director of the county planning commission, which manages the abatement program for the county and processes such agreements.
TJX/HomeGoods is proposing to build a 1.2 million square foot distribution center on Ellsworth Bailey Road.
At a meeting Friday, a HomeGoods official said the company wants to break ground as soon as March 1 and has submitted a site-plan for the project and taken lots of other steps.
Council also approved the agreement that the village and Lordstown schools reached that requires the village to share some of the HomeGoods income-tax revenue with the schools over the next 10 years, to offset revenue the school district will forego because of the abatement.
Jones said before voting on the abatement and the revenue sharing that she has expressed her dislike for abatements over the years — because “I think this is killing our school systems all over the state, probably other states as well. I think abatements should be outlawed on a federal level so everybody’s on the same plane.”
Bond pointed to Jackson Township, Mahoning County, to the south, saying it offers “no tax abatements whatsoever” and is still attracting jobs.
But Coggins said Jackson Township did give a tax abatement to attract its first FedEx facility, and some of its newest employers don’t qualify for abatements.
Hill said attracting a new company such as HomeGoods can often require an abatement, no matter how much people might not like the idea.
“This project here, if the abatement was not granted, there was a good chance it was going to east-central Pennsylvania. I think everybody here is aware of that.”
He said no one should say the Lordstown schools will be losing money because of the HomeGoods abatement.
“Can anybody tell me what the net loss is for the abatement we have given to the school? There is none,” he said.
He was referring to the fact that the schools would get no money from the HomeGoods project if the company picked another site.
“There is no loss of revenue, except for fictitious loss, money you could have had,” Hill said.
Another resolution council approved was to apply for $1.4 million through the Ohio Development Services Agency that will be used for traffic-contol and utility improvements that will be needed when HomeGoods converts the part of Hallock Young Road in the project into a cul-de-sac.
HomeGoods will pay the remaining $800,000 that will be needed for the changes, Hill said.
HomeGoods did ask for and received from council several last-minute changes to the enterprise-zone agreement, mostly related to time frames for the company to hire 1,000 full-time workers.
The company is required to meet employment targets in order to continue to receive the tax abatement.
Coggins said some of the new parts of the abatement are under review by the Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure that they comply with state law before the commissioners approve it.