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Archbold may recover tax-abatements

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ConAgra Foods Inc., might owe the village and other local government entities hundreds of thousands dollars from tax-abatement agreements that will not be upheld.

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ARCHBOLD - ConAgra Foods Inc., which this month announced it will close its Archbold plant in January ending 370 jobs, might owe the village and other local government entities hundreds of thousands dollars from tax-abatement agreements that will not be upheld.

The corporation, which makes Healthy Choice soup and La Choy products in Archbold, has three tax abatements on the books that all call for it to employ 410 people:

•A seven-year personal property-tax abatement on business equipment and inventory that went into effect in 2000 saved the corporation $166,480 last year alone after it made donations to Archbold Area Local School District and Four County Career Center.

•A combination 10-year real estate-tax abatement and seven-year personal property tax- abatement that went into effect in 2003 saved ConAgra more than $318,000 last year after its donations to the schools.

•A 10-year Community Reinvestment Agreement affecting real estate taxes that started in 2001 saved the corporation more than $52,000 last year after its school donations.

The question of whether to enact what economic development specialists call a clawback, recalling tax savings because of unfulfilled employment promises, starts with Archbold Village Administrator Dennis Howell.

He is to make a recommendation to the local Tax Incentive Review Council, a group of 10 local officials, of which Fulton County Auditor Nancy Yackee is the chairman. The other members are appointees of the Fulton County Commissioners, Archbold village, German Township, and the schools.

That group is to meet this winter, likely in January, to go over all tax-abatement agreements for the area.

In the meantime, key leaders are studying up on the rules. Mrs. Yackee said there have not been any claw-backs in the county in recent memory.

And Fred Eldridge, who was new this summer as county economic development director, is hoping to lure another employer to the soon-to-be vacated plant.

He plans to talk up the site at a food processing exposition in Chicago in October.

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