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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Decision on tax program coming Tuesday

As published in the Record Journal, Saturday September 24, 2011

By Robert Cyr
Record-Journal staff
(203) 317-2224

WALLINGFORD — The Town Council will decide Tuesday whether to allow developer Workstage Connecticut LLC to enter into a seven-year tax abatement program after resuming improvements to the future headquarters of Anthem Blue Cross.

The 305,000-square-foot building at 110 Leigus Road, which was mostly completed in 2007, was originally built for Mortgage Lenders Network USA Inc., but that company went bankrupt shortly after the subprime mortgage industry imploded the same year.

Workstage spent about $20 million on the project and is finishing up construction for Anthem’s move after years of inactivity, scheduled for completion in September 2012. Anthem will occupy 217,764 square feet of the campus.

“Seeing the facility come into play is a really positive step on so many different fronts,” said Donald W. Roe, economic development coordinator. “It was just sort of sitting there for years as an empty shell.”

Under the tax incentive program created in 2005, Workstage will not have to pay 20 percent of the property’s taxes for seven years. Workstage is the seventh-highest taxpayer in town with property assessed at $20,151,880. The annual break on Workstage’s tax bill would be $55,467.

According to the tax collector’s office, Workstage paid $483,654 in taxes last year and will pay $277,339 in 2011. The property’s assessed value was cut in half during this year’s revaluation, dropping from $20 million to $10 million.

To be eligible for the program, a business must make at least a $12 million investment in its property, and employ a minimum of 1,200 people in a space of no less than 60,000 square feet. The property will be revaluated again in 2016, Roe said.

The program, extended for three years in early 2010, is a payoff for the town in the long run and helps attract businesses that may stay in the area for a long time, said Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr.

The town’s grand list, which declined for the first time in more than 20 years, caused a revenue loss of $4 million at the current tax rate. Dickinson recommended using $4.6 million from the town’s reserve funds and $750,000 in Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority revenue to close the gap and fund operating expenses.

“The effort is in economic development and it helps to keep taxes lower and utilities under control,” he said. “Most towns have a program of one form or another to encourage businesses to stay in Connecticut and provide employment. We’re very interested in having businesses move to Wallingford, especially where they make that kind of investment.”

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