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Fillmore Board balks at tax abatement decision

By John Weiss

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

PRESTON — The Fillmore County Board had technical questions but no final answer today about whether it would agree to Chatfield’s tax abatement program.

Chatfield, the Chatfield School Board and county board need to approve the program before the city can use the tax abatements for the water and road to the Hilltop development and new school on a bluff overlooking the city.

The Chatfield City Council approved it two weeks ago, and the school board approved it last week, though in a different form.

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The county board was scheduled to vote on it this morning, but a glitch in how the meeting was advertised forced the board to postpone the vote until 4 p.m. April 15.

Board members did say how they would vote, and two of five were not present.

Abatements are a way to collect extra property taxes that come when raw land is developed. In this case, 75 percent of those taxes would be used to pay for the improvements, with the other 25 percent going to the three taxing bodies; taxes already being collected on raw land would still go to the regular places. When improvements are paid for, all the taxes go to the three governmental units.

The idea, however, hit heavy opposition at the council and school board because people feared that the development wouldn’t happen fast enough and citizens would be stuck paying what abatements couldn’t cover. The city, which is promoting the idea, said it has set aside money for some early payments and would structure payments with lower amounts early when fewer homes have been built.

The school board, however, said it would only pay for the road, not the pumping station for water and not for a new water tower. The city has said it has other sources outside of abatements for the new tower that would not be built soon.

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