Hays bill would protect businesses rebuilding after storms

Hays bill would protect businesses rebuilding after storms

SPRINGFIELD — Legislation aimed at easing the property tax burden on businesses that need to rebuild after a natural disaster has been introduced in the Illinois House by state Rep. Chad Hays, R-Catlin.

Hays' district includes Gifford, which was one of several Illinois communities raked by devastating tornadoes on Nov. 17. Hays' bill is HB 4354. He said Tuesday that identical legislation would be filed in the state Senate by Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign.

"After the Harrisburg tornado (in 2012) the Legislature acted in relation to residential property owners who wanted to build back. There was the concern that if you build back a home that was built in the 1920s, or '30s or '40s and you build it back at today's dollars, there is the potential for the assessed valuation to go way up," Hays explained. "That bill provided property tax relief as an incentive for people to rebuild in the community."

But the Harrisburg-related legislation did not cover commercial and industrial property, Hays said.

He said his bill would provide property tax relief to businesses like the Rademacher Building Center in Gifford that was heavily damaged in the tornado.

"When they look to rebuild they have the potential of the assessed valuation of their property going three or four times from what it was," Hays said. "Many of those businesses have been there a long time and it certainly wasn't in their business plan to totally rebuild. They are concerned about their assessed valuation and their property tax bill going way up."

Hays' bill abates for five years any increase in property taxes resulting from the difference in the value of a business property after natural disaster-related repairs or rebuilding, he said.

In years six through 15, property tax increases on the incremental difference in value would be limited to no more than 10 percent per year.

"It gives some certainty and predictability to business owners looking to reinvest in a community like Gifford. They would know for the next 15 years what their obligation is going to be," Hays said.

The legislation "also builds in some protections for taxpayers, the village and school districts," Hays said, by requiring businesses seeking the abatement to go to the county board for permission.

"I do think it is important that you have some local body that is overseeing this to make sure that we have legitimate claims," he said.

Champaign County officials "are very supportive of this legislation," Hays said.

He said he believed a number of legislators from other parts of the state where tornadoes struck on Nov. 17 would cosponsor the bill, and he said he hoped organizations representing school districts and cities and villages also would support the measure.

"In a community like Gifford where you have a handful of businesses that really are extraordinarily important to that community, it would be my hope that keeping that business in the community, having an incentive and working with them on their property taxes would be something that would be a positive," Hays said. "A much more negative dynamic would be if the property tax burden is so exacerbated by the new construction that they simply don't rebuild."

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