Fulton city lawmakers Wednesday approved a deal that will sharply cut property taxes on the closed Birds-Eye plant but which avoids some pain for taxpayers.
The plant is valued at $7.6 million. Next year, the plant will be taxed at a value of $3.9 million and the year after that, $1.9 million.
Birds-Eye’s owner, Pinnacle Foods, wanted the property value dropped to $1.4 million. It is asking $1.2 million for the plant.
Common Councilor Alan Emrich called the settlement “damage control”, because Pinnacle agreed not to ask for a refund on taxes it paid this year. And avoiding a court battle means there’s no risk of an immediate cut to $1.9 million or lower. “If you roll the dice and go to court,” said Mayor Ron Woodward, the city would be taking a very large risk. “We feel a judge will be more beneficial to them,” he said.
Woodward estimated that the change in value will result in a loss of $61,190 in tax revenue in 2013.
He said the deal might make the plant more attractive to a potential buyer, though any buyer would likely pay no property taxes because there would be a payment-in-lieu-of-taxes deal with the county Industrial Development Authority.
Talks are ongoing with a foreign company that would like to buy and operate the plant.
The deal will also drain tax dollars from the county and the Fulton City School District.
Fulton City School District Superintendent Bill Lynch said he could not yet comment on the impact of the tax deal on the district’s tax revenues, but added, “given that there are few if any other options at present for the Pinnacle property, the opportunity for 183 or so people directly to be employed at the new plant with the potential for more indirect jobs locally is the bright side. Jobs and viable families are what our community needs to build our local economy. We have to see the glass as half full in this case.”