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Tax abatement being considered for Dysart

January 18, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

The Dysart City Council is moving forward with the consideration of a tax abatement program for the city with several council members involved in a committee to look into the benefits of the program.

"The proposed tax abatement program would allow homeowners or business owners to invest in their properties and any increased valuation would be eligible for a period of tax abatement." Councilman Tylor Gingrich said. "Essentially, it allows the City to provide an incentive for residents to build, remodel, businesses to expand or come to the town. This is a pro-growth program that doesn't require the city to take on additional debt, and benefits both taxpayers and the City."

Gingrich, who has been on the council for approximately a year, grew up in Dysart with larger class sizes and a different housing situation. Tasked with looking into tax abatement, Gingrich has seen first hand how the program can benefit young families and a community in need of growth.

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"I've seen tax abatement work in multiple communities," Gingrich said. "I lived in Madrid for a period time. They had a program like this and I took advantage of it as a young homeowner. The incentives swayed me to buy a home there and have my taxes abated for five years there. I have an acquaintance that built three new homes utilizing that tax abatement program. These homes will provide tax revenue for Madrid for years to come."

According to Gingrich, tax abatement allows homeowners or business owners to remodel or build w/o paying taxes on increased property valuation. The property owner would still be responsible for the property taxes they paid prior to the remodel or new build.

"Increased value can add up to a pretty good chunk of cash," Gingrich said. "Anyone that was considering improvements, but can't because their budget does allow it, this program will ease finances to make those renovations or expansions."

The City of La Porte recently passed a similar program to grow their community, which prompted the idea with the Dysart City Council. Though the two Union communities differ in terms of population, distance to Waterloo/Cedar Falls and the ability to draw young families.

"Communities are in competition with one another to bring people and build businesses in their communities," Gingrich said. "We're more rural than La Porte, so I feel we have to be more aggressive to get people here. When people start hearing of the program here, I feel that will lead to more families giving Dysart a hard look."

Another factor is considering tax abatement is the uncertainty surrounding school finances and smaller class sizes across the state in rural districts. Recently, Gladbrook-Reinbeck closed their elementary school in Gladbrook, something Gingrich does not want to see in Dysart one day in the distant future.

"I am worried about the trend of schools closing down in areas, like Gladbrook," Gingrich said. "My biggest worry is one day the numbers make sense to close Dysart-Geneseo Elementary. The effects would be devastating to Dysart because no young families will move here and then ship their kids to La Porte. We need to be aggressive and address this before it's ever an issue. I spoke with Travis Fleshner at Union. While we didn't have an official determination, he does want to have a strong Dysart and have a good class size at Dysart."

According to U.S. Census data, between 1970 and 2016, Dysart has grown 1.083 percent, from 1,251 to 1,355 people, a statistic Gingrich does not believe is enough to sustain the community or the elementary school. Though Dysart may not be completely suitable for tax abatement at its full potential, Gingrich feels he and other members of the council believe there is plenty to gain through bringing more families to the community and giving businesses a chance to renovate.

"In a perfect world, we'd have an addition with twelve open lots in Dysart and people would build big, beautiful new houses there while taking advantage of the tax abatement," Gingrich said. "The reality is we don't have that here. We do have some lots here to be built on, as well as some houses that could be torn down for new ones. We won't be able to maximize the program, but we do have aging inventory that contractors could flip a home. Maybe someone wants to add a garage or finish a basement. They could abate that increased value. I think people could update their homes or fix up older homes, businesses expanding."

The City Council will hold a workshop to discuss tax abatement with Marty Wymore from Region 6 Planning over the adoption process and the abatement schedule. Different tiers of abatement will be created based off financial need for abatement. The council will be required to hold a public hearing before a resolution is read three times and then approved.

"We want to build that abatement schedule in a way that incentivizes people and businesses to try to go more years," Gingrich said. "In the end, the city will have additional property valuation for taxes."

Gingrich hopes to have the program ready by mid-April before the construction season begins and so families can plan for updates or additions. Check back with the Dysart Reporter for further updates on this developing story as they are made available.



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