Prepared Comments Made to
NORTH CANTON CITY COUNCIL
April 18, 2016
The number of tax abatements to businesses that have been approved by North Canton City Council over the years but that ultimately were found to be unworkable, resulting in NO abatement of taxes, yet led to relocation or expansion in North Canton, should be cause for concern.
Members of City Council should be asking themselves, “Were these abatements really necessary?”
The oft-repeated argument in support of the abatement of taxes each and every time a request is made is that the business would relocate or expand elsewhere if the abatement were not provided.
A memorable quote made by Mona Lisa Vito in the movie, My Cousin Vinny, seems appropriate here when she says, “Well, that plans moot.” Arguing that a business will relocate or expand elsewhere if a tax abatement is not given is unfounded. In other words, “That argument is moot!”
Specific abatements, authorized by City Council, that proved unworkable and yet the businesses relocated or expanded in North Canton are the following:
In 2006, legislation was before City Council for an abatement of taxes for Dr. Suglio. Despite the fact that I made Council aware of issues regarding this abatement, Council nonetheless approved the abatement only to pass additional legislation a month later rescinding the abatement. Dr. Suglio continued his investment on Main Street without an abatement of property taxes and later opened up his Gourmet Coffee Shop.
Link to the January 9, 2006 remarks to City Council regarding the Suglio abatement is below:
In 2007, there were discussions to approve an abatement of taxes for the construction of a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store on Applegrove. When I asked why a $28 billion a year company needed a tax abatement, this abatement was quashed before legislation came up for a vote. As we all know, there is a Sherwin-Williams Paint Store on Applegrove today, and amazingly, it did not require the loss of scarce tax dollars needed by the North Canton City Schools, the North Canton City Library, the Stark County Park District, or the City of North Canton.
Link to the May 14, 2007 remarks to City Council regarding the Sherwin-Williams tax abatement is below:
In 2009, following approval of a liquor option by voters, the Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Company announced that they were embarking on an expansion of the store’s Liquor Department as well as a remodel of the entire Acme Fresh Market Store on North Main Street.
Link to the April 13, 2009 remarks to City Council regarding the Acme abatement is below:
Amazingly, AFTER the announced expansion, North Canton’s Director of Economic Development, Eric Bowles, contacted Acme Fresh Market and offered a tax abatement.
And more astonishingly, this Council body approved the abatement with passage of Ordinance No. 33-09.
Again, I ask, WHY?
The Acme Fresh Market Store had been an anchor store for twenty-years in North Canton and their announcement to expand and remodel indicated their intention to remain in the City.
This was not a prudent decision on the part of Mr. Bowles at that time. The recommendation from Mr. Bowles that Council should now expand the City’s CRA Program is equally ill-advised.
In my recent conversations with the Stark County Auditor’s office, I have learned that the Fred W. Albrecht Grocery Company never actually received any abatement of property taxes as the store improvements never raised the appraised valuation of the property, yet the business has remained in North Canton.
In 2011, City Council gave an Industrial and Commercial Occupancy grant to Ben Suarez for what was called Project Omega under Ordinance 53-11. The Suarez Corporation never met any of the requirements to qualify for any rebate of taxes.
Link to the May 23, 2011 remarks to City Council regarding the grant to The Suarez Corp.
In 2012, City Council approved an Industrial and Commercial Retention Grant for Crowl, Montgomery & Clark with the passage of Ordinance No. 68-12. This is a digital marketing firm that had operated out of office space on North Main Street for two decades and decided to relocate its offices to an old Victorian house on South Main Street.
I am not sure how a digital marketing company fits the requirements of an Industrial and Commercial Grant and that may be why the business never executed a grant agreement. Crowl, Montgomery & Clark ultimately never received any tax dollars, yet they remained in North Canton.
There is no one who could say that North Canton City Council doesn’t try hard to give away tax dollars needed by the North Canton City Schools, the Library, the Stark County Park District, or just the City of North Canton. The past history of the failed abatements seems to underscore that the abatements were not critical to the businesses as they are a part of our community despite NOT receiving the abatement.
A summary of the Ohio Community Reinvestment Area Program states, “Ohio’s CRA Program was created to promote the revitalization of areas where investment has been discouraged….”
Creation of CRAs in the City is not needed and declaring that any area of North Canton discourages investment is wholly untrue. Banks are still lending to creditworthy applicants who want to build or refurbish structures throughout the City of North Canton.
In the future, voters will find it difficult to approve levies, school or not, knowing that City Council is handing out tax dollars to millionaires, corporations, and businesses that need no encouragement to stay and grow in North Canton.
City of North Canton