DeKalb school board votes in on Project Hammer tax abatement plan

DeKalb school board in on Project Hammer tax abatement plan, cites needed tax base growth

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DeKALB – The DeKalb school board could get the biggest piece of a $34.5 million 15-year property tax pie if an international confectioner chooses to put down roots in DeKalb thanks to a unanimous approval of an agreement with other counterparts throughout DeKalb County.

"We're very excited that the city has been aggressive in bringing more assessed valuation to our area," said District 428 Superintendent Jamie Craven Tuesday about a development dubbed Project Hammer eyeing the city's ChicagoWest Business Center. "It's only going to benefit the taxpayers int he community."

In a unanimous vote (though board Vice President Valerie Pena-Hernandez was absent), the school board approved an intergovernmental agreement that would abate 50% of the property taxes for the first 15 years for the development known as Project Hammer. It’s part of a package of incentives being offered to an international confectioner, yet unnamed, to come to DeKalb, bringing with it 1,000 jobs, city officials have said.

As a public school district, District 428 is set to collect the most in property taxes from the development.

Estimates show that over the first 15 years, the company would provide $34.5 million in abated property taxes ($69 million total unabated) to be split relative to the agencies' tax rates, documents show, with the school district likely collecting the most.

Samantha McDavid, board president, echoed Craven's excitement.

"The school district as a taxing body is really excited to be able to partner with the rest of the taxing bodies in our community," McDavid said. "And to see some growth in our community, that's what we're looking for."

City Manager Bill Nicklas has spent the past few weeks soliciting support for the agreement from 10 different taxing bodies. In addition to District 428, six others have voted yes, including the City of DeKalb, DeKalb County, Kishwaukee College, DeKalb Township, DeKalb Township Road District and Kishwaukee Water Reclamation District. Those who will vote on the matter this week include the DeKalb County Forest Preserve and DeKalb Public Library board Wednesday, and the DeKalb Park District on Thursday.

DeKalb is in competition with a similar-sized city in Wisconsin for the bid, and documents show city staff are urging taxing bodies to approve the agreement in haste.

Nicklas, who was in attendance, thanked the district for their support.

"I'm very grateful to the school board and all the taxing bodies who have given me some time to present to them," Nicklas said in an interview after the meeting. "