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County OKs old mill tax district

| December 9, 2004 11:00 PM

By Brent Shrum Western News Reporter

The Lincoln County Commissioners this week approved the formation of a tax increment financing industrial district for the former mill property now owned by the county port authority.

The district will divert increased tax revenue from improvements at the site back to the port authority to fund additional improvements.

Because the site is publicly owned, it is exempt from normal property taxes. Tenants on the site will pay a beneficial use tax, however, which is equivalent to the property tax that would otherwise be paid.

³It¹s to have a level playing field for those who are on private property as opposed to being on tax-exempt property,² said Commissioner Rita Windom.

Once facilities on the property are assessed for the beneficial use tax, those valuations will form a baseline for the tax increment financing district. Any increase in tax revenues stemming from a rise in valuations above that baseline will go to the port authority to finance further improvements on the property. Increased valuations could result from general improvements to the site or specific improvements to individual buildings as well as from the construction of new buildings.

The funds generated by the district can be used to pay off bonds, which would pay for ³major infrastructure improvements,² said Kootenai River Development Council director Paul Rumelhart.

The district will have a lifespan of 20 years.

The port authority acquired the 400-acre property from Stimson Lumber Co. at the end of last year. At the time the port authority took ownership, there were around 30 jobs on the site at Stimson¹s finger-joint plant. There are currently more than 100 jobs on the site with around 25 of them new to the area.

According to port authority board chairman Jim Mayo, most of the usable space in existing buildings on the property is already rented or soon will be, and the port authority is negotiating with a light manufacturing firm that would employ 40 to 50 people and require a new building.

The port authority is nearing the point where rental income is enough to maintain the site. Operation and maintenance is currently subsidized by a $96,000 loan from the city¹s economic development fund, calculated as the minimum required to maintain the property for one year. Earlier this week, the council approved a $300,000 grant to the port authority from the same fund that will be used to fund construction and other site improvements as they are needed.