With a unanimous vote, village council members agreed to a 15-year deal Monday evening to return up to $1.25 million in future tax revenues to a struggling auto dealership on Roosevelt Road.
The agreement between Currie Group and the municipality comes after several months of negotiations in which Currie Group sought to retain a portion of the sales taxes it would normally pay to the village. That money, according to the company, is to offset a renovation project needed to keep the auto dealer in Forest Park.
Currie Group operates two dealerships on Roosevelt, but as a result of a bankruptcy filing by Chrysler – one of its product suppliers – one lot will be closed. In retaining the second showroom, Currie Group has said it must renovate the facility to the tune of several million dollars.
The auto retailer has operated in Forest Park since 1981. When representatives asked council members for a tax break, they said the company would prefer to stay in the community rather than relocate outside of Forest Park.
“We’re lending assistance to keep these guys in Forest Park,” Commissioner Rory Hoskins said of the deal.
Located at 8401 Roosevelt, Currie Motors was named in Chrysler’s bankruptcy filing in May as one of 789 dealerships across the country that would not see its franchise agreement renewed. Currie Group also sells Chevrolet vehicles at the corner of Desplaines and Roosevelt. It is expected that the Chevrolet site would be closed, with that brand relocated to the renovated Chrysler location. The village has indicated that Currie Group may carry a different, or additional, line of cars once the renovation is complete.
The agreement guarantees that the first $50,000 in annual sales tax revenue would be retained by the village. Half of every dollar in excess of that amount would be returned to the dealership. Over the life of the deal, the payout to the company is not to exceed $1.25 million, or half the project’s costs, whichever comes first.
During the July 27 council meeting, an attorney for Currie Group, Matt Creen, estimated the renovation would cost upwards of $2.5 million.
Auto dealerships are typically one of the more coveted businesses among municipalities because they tend to generate buckets of tax revenue. In 2008, Forest Park received nearly $400,000 in sales tax money between Currie Group’s two dealerships, according to the finance department. However, through the first four months of 2009, those revenues were down 50 percent.
Commissioner Mark Hosty initially balked at the company’s request for a multi-year tax break, saying it potentially puts Forest Park in a bidding war with other communities. However, Hosty said he had no interest in seeing Currie Group take its business elsewhere.
“This was the most controversial provision in the agreement,” Creen, the dealership’s attorney, said.
During the council’s discussion Monday evening, Hosty questioned several clauses meant to protect the village should Currie Group go out of business or otherwise leave Forest Park. Half of whatever money is paid back to Currie Group must be returned to the village if the company is shuttered, according to village attorney Mike Durkin. If another, unrelated auto dealership moves into the location, the village may revoke the tax break. If another dealership that is an affiliate of Currie Group takes over, it would be up to that new company to decide whether it wants to participate in the rebate.
“This is another example of Forest Park working together to make Forest Park a better community,” Commissioner Mike Curry said.