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Grundy County OKs tax settlement

Published: Tuesday, March 11, 2014 8:31 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 10:00 a.m. CDT

MORRIS – Grundy County Board Chairman Ron Severson was all smiles as he called the vote to approve the LyondellBasell property tax settlement.

“This is a good night for Grundy County,” he said. “This is probably one of the best nights for Grundy County since I’ve been here.”

His excitement was shared by the 14 board members who voted to pass the agreement. Jim Ryan, John Galloway and John Almer abstained from the vote because they have worked or are currently working for the company.

Landmark agreements with LyondellBasell and Dresden Nuclear Station were passed during Tuesday’s meeting.

With these disputes cleared away, this marks the first time in more than 13 years the county is not involved in a lawsuit with a local company.

Last month, the county settled a 13-year lawsuit with Midwest Generation.

The Dresden agreement locks in the plant’s equalized assessed property values for the next five years. The settlement provides stability for taxing bodies that depend on the station’s tax revenues, like Coal City School District 1. Roughly 70 percent of the school district’s budget comes from Dresden property taxes.

Taxing bodies argued about the Dresden’s property values for nine months before reaching this agreement.

With LyondellBasell settlement, more than a dozen taxing bodies will receive property tax payments from years past. The company will make a one-time payment of about $3.5 million, with Minooka School Districts 111 and 201 receiving about $2.6 million between them.

Grundy County will receive about $296,000 of that payment.

The long-standing lawsuit began in 2003 when Equistar Chemicals – now known as LyondellBasell – disputed Grundy County’s property value assessment of its plant located on Tabler Road.

While in the midst of that dispute with the county, LyondellBasell declared bankruptcy in 2009.

A court ruled that the company would not have to pay property taxes while it was in bankruptcy court so local taxing bodies did not receive tax revenues from the plant for two years.

The current settlement agreement resolves the property tax disputes, missed property tax payments and sets the plant’s EAV moving forward.

“This is a huge step,” Nancy Norton Ammer, Chief Executive Officer for the Grundy Economic Development Council, said after Minooka school board passed the settlements last week. “With these signed, we are saving the taxpayers of Grundy County a lot of money in legal fees and creating a better climate for businesses.”

Both settlements, as well as the Midwest Generation agreement, provide the county and affected taxing bodies stability moving forward.

“A lot of our largest taxpayers are our largest employers,” Ammer said. “So having that harmonious relationship is really important.”

Severson added that the tax committee and other board members who worked on the settlements will now have the time to focus on other issues.

“Our tax committee will have a lot of free time,” he joked.

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