Homewood trustees Tuesday supported Comcast’s request to Cook County for a renewal of its Class 8 tax extension, which would substantially reduce its property tax rate for the next 12 years.
The village board, in a 5-1 vote, gave its stamp of approval to Comcast’s renewal of its current tax designation for the Homewood Service Center at 17700 Hoffman Way. Trustee Jay Heiferman cast the sole vote against the tax break.
In discussion prior to the vote, Homewood resident Amy Crump questioned the board on why Comcast needed a renewal of the Class 8 tax break.
“I did some research on Comcast, and found that the annual profits are at $55 million,” Crump said. “Why do they need this tax break in Homewood for another 12 years?”
According to Tom Vander Woude, Homewood’s director of economic and community development, the village originally supported the tax designation in 2004 as one component of a redevelopment agreement to construct Comcast’s service center.
The Class 8 real estate tax incentive is administered by the Cook County Assessor’s Office and is designed to encourage industrial and commercial development in areas experiencing economic stagnation.
Qualifying buildings are assessed at 10 percent of market value for 10 years, 15 percent in the 11th year and 20 percent in the 12th year. This is a significant reduction from the standard assessment level of 25 percent for industrial and commercial properties.
Renewal of the Class 8 designation is permitted but requires the village board to approve a resolution that can be sent to county officials. Comcast’s Class 8 designation is currently in its 11th year.
In the letter requesting the renewal, Comcast stated that without the incentive, its property taxes will increase to $361,852 annually. With the incentive renewed, Comcast will have an annual property tax burden of $144,741, a savings of $217,111 for the company.
Crump wondered if the company’s request was a form of blackmail.
“Is Comcast threatening to leave if the approval was not granted?” she asked.
Mayor Richard Hofeld hastened to explain that the purpose of the incentive is “to attract and retain” businesses.
“It’s a matter of competition,” he said. Hofeld pointed out that Homewood is justd five miles from Indiana, which has a lower property tax burden.
“We don’t want them to leave,” Hofeld said. “We don’t want an empty building and we don’t want people to lose their jobs.”
Hofeld said there are 400 people employed at the Comcast site.
“That means 400 people, living in or near Homewood, shopping here, eating at our restaurants, buying gas here, etc.,” he said. “This is important to our economy and the vitality of our village.”
Trustees were also quick to respond to Crump’s question.
“I am not crazy about Class 8 and having to ‘bribe’ them to stay, but they give a lot to the community,” Anne Colton said. “I don’t think any of us want to do this, but it would be horrible if they left.”
Lisa Purcell commented that the tax break “is the price we have to pay to keep them here.”
Barbara Dawkins also supported the tax break.
“I’m in favor of providing the resolution to keep them here,” she said.
“We need to approve it,” said Larry Burnson. “I know that large businesses often have no problem with moving out and going just blocks away to take advantage of the Class 8 designation for their new building.”