New spin on county's economic development

Build new house, get tax break
Star Herald Editorial

As work continues on bringing broadband Internet to all rural residences in Rock County, commissioners are reconsidering the county’s current tax abatement resolution.

For almost 20 years Rock County has offered tax incentives to new businesses that move into or expand within the county boundaries.

Passed in 1997, the tax abatement resolution allowed commissioners to forego their share of the property taxes for up to 10 years on business expansions.

Since then, the county has received fewer than 10 requests based on the current criteria.

In a cumbersome process, all requests are discussed in front of the board and have been approved.

We think re-examining the resolution is a good idea and is probably long overdue.

Commissioners should discuss and seriously consider amending the current resolution to include all property improvements by any resident in Rock County.

With high speed Internet access coming this fall, more county residents may consider working out of their homes. Why not receive a tax break for building a new house for that home office?

The state’s tax abatement laws are very broad, and it is up to county governments to establish a resolution as to how the law is used locally.

Just across the county line, Nobles County has a tax abatement process that encourages the building of new single-family homes or rental housing units.

Prior to adopting its Nobles Home Initiative, about 10 new structures were built in the county. After its adoption a few years ago, the county averages 40 new homes annually.

The expansion of Rock County’s tax abatement resolution is a way to encourage growth and be available to every resident. It is a good way to say, “We want you to live in Rock County.”

For years Rock County has received pressure from bordering states encouraging residents to move there instead of staying in Minnesota. What better way to show people Rock County has something to offer residents too.

It’s not to say the county should write a blank check to those wanting to build in Rock County. Appropriate limits should be set and every request should be double-checked before receiving commissioner approval.

But make it easy.

An easy-to-fill-out form open to anyone interested in requesting abatement should be developed.

Also make it easy for people to make the request.

No begging.

No discrimination.

No hassles to those who request the incentive to improve their properties.

Forgiving the taxes on improvements to a property for a specific number of years is not giving money away.

It may be a way to spruce up our county. Too many homes are abandoned or have fallen into disrepair.

And if the number of years hasn’t expired for a specific abatement before the house is sold, transfer abatement to the new owners.

Remember, the county would still collect taxes on the original value of the parcel, just not the improvement part until later.

We encourage our commissioners to take a serious look at the current tax abatement resolution and make changes.

Better yet, invite folks from next door and hear firsthand how well their home initiative works and what they would recommend for us.

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