Dreyfus Seeks Abatement For $46M Expansion

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Louis Dreyfus took steps Thursday to seek a tax abatement from the county for an upcoming multi-million-dollar project.

Attorney Steve Snyder, on behalf of Louis Dreyfus Agriculture Industries, told the Kosciusko County Council Thursday that Louis Dreyfus was about to undertake a project in Claypool with a total value of $46 million.

“They’re looking at new bean barns, which are already partially under construction. New rail expansion. I haven’t seen the final plans on that, but if I had to guess, they’re going to finally connect the south leg of their yard to the north-south Norfolk Southern line so they’ve got a loop. There’s a new, what they call white room for the glycerin refinery. And those are the real estate improvements. They will total $22 million,” Snyder said.

Louis Dreyfus also will have personal property that’s being acquired to “support all of that” along with “additional items within the facility itself and expanding the facility,” Snyder said.

He said when the statement of benefits was filed, he tried to help out the assessors as much as he could, so he got a total personal property printout from Louis Dreyfus, though it may not be 100% accurate, but will give the assessor an idea of what to look for as far as what’s coming up under this particular project.

In 2006, Snyder said, the Louis Dreyfus project was started and it’s grown “immensely.” It currently has 110 employees with wages that are “significant to the county,” he said. The average wage of all the employees is $81,000 per employee, “in other words, good wages,” Snyder said.

The new project will bring an additional 12 employees at “annual salaries (totaling) $460,000,” Snyder stated. “And roughly $40,000 as starting for those 12 employees, and as you can tell from the average wage, the average wage that Dreyfus pays will go up.”

He said that will make the total salaries annually that Louis Dreyfus pays to employees $9,415,000.

“With the additional tax abatements that took place when the project started, those are starting to fall by the wayside now. Real estate taxes that were paid last year were $78,000. That’s going to keep going up as more of those abatements reach maturity,” Snyder said.

He said when he talked to Louis Dreyfus’ home office, they told him Kosciusko County is as welcoming as any place it has a facility. As a result, Louis Dreyfus keeps bringing in projects like this with another $46 million investment and another 12 good-paying jobs, he said.

Snyder asked the county council to approve two items Thursday night, which they did. The first was the declaratory resolution beginning the process of adoption of the final abatement resolution, and the second was a waiver.

“The statute says we have to get a waiver of the requirement that the project not begin until the economic revitalization area is established,” Snyder said. “I play it safe and say even if that’s been there for 10 years and 12 years as this has, we still need to file this waiver.”

There were no remonstrators to the request.

The public hearing on the abatement request will be held at the council’s Oct. 10 meeting before the council votes on it. Snyder said nothing will be official until  the confirmatory resolution is passed.

In August the council held several meetings for the 2020 budget. Thursday night, the council adopted it after a brief discussion.

Council President Sue Ann Mitchell said she provided some of the council members with information on the status of the general fund and where that ended up.

“There’s a lot of things, a lot of moving parts that are actually affecting this. We’re moving $2 million into the general fund. We’re still spending almost $1 million more than what we moved in,” she said.

“It is a process because that’s the only way financially we can make ends meet with tax caps and without being able to collect further money. And that’s the solution that the state has given us at this point. So I think we just have to accept it.”

Mitchell said she wanted everyone to be aware that “if we continue doing what we’re doing, we could have issues down the road with having enough funding to continue to maintain.”

This year the county’s maximum levy is “pretty normal,” she said. “And the 0.0359 max levy doesn’t just affect the general fund. We have to share that with the other funds in order to cover for what we’re actually paying for.”

Councilman Ernie Wiggins said he concurred with Mitchell. “I guess we’re somewhat blessed we’ve got the pretty good balances. But I think we do need to be more mindful of the fact that based on some of these projections, some of those balances are going to be vanishing,” he said.

Wiggins said some of the new positions approved by the council for 2020 came about because the new state Rule 26 didn’t provide another choice. The rule is in regard to bonding of arrestees and was previously discussed at county council meetings. Wiggins said with that, a significant piece of the 2020 budget was salaries.

No changes to the budget were offered, and the council adopted it 6-0, with Councilwoman Joni Truex absent.

At the end of Thursday’s meeting, Mitchell reported, “We did receive notice today that the county’s audit was approved without any issues. That is a major step.”

She said that was because the county did a really good job and thanked County Auditor Michelle Puckett and her staff “for getting us to that point and keeping us on the straight and narrow.”

After the council applauded the auditor’s office, Puckett thanked them but shared credit with the other county departments and the county’s policies on grants and funding.

“In the end, we are in a great place. We have amazing department heads, amazing financial staff in each office that we work with. It is definitely a countywide team effort,” she said.

In other business, the council approved:

• The county salary ordinance.

• The Kosciusko County Solid Waste Management District budget, which was presented to the council in August. The adopted tax levy for the district is $224,104.

• The North Webster Community Library budget, which also was presented in August. Its adopted tax levey is $934,775.