Almost two months after requesting taxpayer money be used to offset expenses at their auto dealerships, the Currie Group has yet to present the village with any firm details on exactly how much money it is looking for, or how it would be paid.
According to several Forest Park officials, the onus for structuring the requested tax break has been put on the business owners. So far, the village hasn’t received anything it can respond to, but Mayor Anthony Calderone said the company is also eyeing other possible sources of revenue, including adding a new line of cars to its stores. Such a move, he said, could radically alter the request and possibly negate the need for Currie Group to shutter one of its Roosevelt Road dealerships as was originally suggested.
“With their negotiations of this new product line it’s conceivable Chevy might remain where it’s at and the other product line moves into the Chrysler location,” Calderone said. “That significantly changes the dynamic.”
In late February, the company’s vice president, Steve Jankelow, went before the council asking that sales taxes that would otherwise be paid to the village be returned to Currie Group. An initial estimate of $1 million was requested by the auto seller, and council members said they generally favored the idea.
The request was prompted by crippling losses incurred by Currie Group’s two dealerships on Roosevelt Road in Forest Park. In a Feb. 10 letter to Calderone, Jankelow spelled out $462,800 in deficits at the company’s Chrysler dealership in the last year. Another $319,000 in losses at the Chevrolet store had also been realized. The company said it planned to use the tax money to help fund a restructuring that could close one of the dealerships.
Calderone also suggested the company is following legislation at the county level that could reduce property taxes for the business. Jankelow declined to comment on his company’s negotiations with the village.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Mark Hosty said he’s happy to wait. The longer Forest Park delays extending a tax break means more revenue for the village, he said.
“At this point it’s a whole lot of nothing, but like I said, I prefer them to take as much time as they like,” Hosty said.
Several tax agreements of this nature already exist in Forest Park, and generally are used to lure new businesses to town. Often, a percentage of new revenues that would otherwise be collected by the village are returned to the business over a period of several years.
Currie Group has been in business in Forest Park since 1981 and does not currently have such an arrangement with the village. Municipalities are typically very interested in retaining auto dealerships because of the sales tax revenues they generate.
Abe Jaffe, the president of Currie Group, was one of Great Britain’s wealthiest citizens at the time of his death March 19. It is not clear how Jaffe’s death may impact the Forest Park dealerships, if at all.
Separate from the discussion in February was a similar request from Currie Group last summer, according to Commissioner Rory Hoskins, who oversees the Department of Accounts and Finance. At that time, said Hoskins, the company sought tax relief that would have reduced the amount of sales tax paid to the village rather than returning any new sales taxes generated out of an increase in car sales. That request “wasn’t acceptable,” said Hoskins.
Hoskins, Calderone and Hosty each said they’re still open to reaching an agreement with Currie Group on its latest request.