Taxpayers may not like eating $1 million for a business that’s bankrolled by one of the richest men in the United Kingdom. But hold your nose and pretend it tastes like ice cream.
As we reported online, and on this issue’s front page, a tax break sought by a longstanding auto dealership in Forest Park may be granted regardless of whether it’s actually needed by the company. Currie Group, which owns two dealerships on Roosevelt, has been selling cars here since 1981. Business has been tough lately and the plan is to consolidate a Chevrolet dealership and a Chrysler dealership, most probably nixing the Chrysler inventory altogether.
To do this, the company says it needs to spend at least $2 million on renovations. Having plugged untold sums of sales tax revenue into municipal coffers for years, Currie Group wants to hold onto more revenue in the years to come, thereby offsetting the cost of consolidating. Without this money, the company is threatening to close both locations and presumably open elsewhere.
Ah, but the president of company, Abraham Jaffe, was worth a reported $169 million in 2008, according to his hometown paper, The Times of London. Since the village is staring at potential budget deficits and this guy’s got a pile of money, why the heck should taxpayers bail him out?
Because Forest Park needs Currie Group more than Jaffe needs Forest Park. (Remember to think of it as ice cream.)
In agreeing to rebate a portion of the sales tax Forest Park would have collected in the coming years, commissioners would be wise to include a few stipulations. The most important of these were recommended by Commissioner Mark Hosty. If the dealership closes, all the money goes back to the village. If the dealership or the land is sold, the deal is off. These clauses are made all the more important by the tenuous situation that General Motors is in, because its failure would likely trump any success that Currie Group might have in staging a comeback.
It’s also important to remember that any agreement between the village and the business is likely to spread the kickback over several years, possibly more than a decade. This lessens the damage to any single budget year, but rest assured, the village will reach into someone else’s pocket to make up the difference.
Of course, the argument that the public subsidy will be stretched over a long period of time cuts both ways. That money isn’t likely to do too much for Currie Group’s bottom line in a single year, which further begs the question, why is it necessary?
Call it a tax break. Call it revenue sharing. Or call it a bailout. The bottom line here has less to do with dollars and cents and everything to do with placating a potential cash cow. Assuming the company’s viability can be verified with any certainty, Forest Park has little choice in the matter.