Richmond Common Council approved a new, 12-category scoring system to award tax abatements.

The measure passed 8-0 during the council’s April 17 meeting after two amendments also passed unanimously. Council raised the minimum starting wage for new and retained jobs from $14 to $18 and required applying companies to provide employees health and wellness benefits. In the proposal, companies would have scored zero points if they did not provide those benefits, but they could have still qualified for an abatement.

Council member Bill Engle brought attention to both those areas when council first saw the ordinance April 3. Council at that time referred the ordinance to its tax abatement committee, and the committee returned April 17 with the suggested amendments.

The $18 starting wage aligns with the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County’s requirement for companies requesting Economic Development Income Tax grants. The EDC recently raised its required minimum wage from $15 to $18.

“We think it is important to raise that wage in order to incentivize this type of investment, because we no longer want to incentivize the low-paying jobs,” Valerie Shaffer, president of the EDC, said while speaking in support of the ordinance.

The 12 categories make 145 points available to a company applying for a tax abatement. The company’s score then dictates the abatement’s length and the yearly percentage of tax forgiven.

Shaffer said the scoring methodology “will award projects that pay higher wages, have higher investments and also have higher job creation, but it creates a great sliding scale so that we can still provide some sort of abatement to the smaller-scale projects.”

Council unanimously approved raising the fine schedule for violations of demolition or alteration of historic structures. The Historic Preservation Commission advanced the changes, which align with state statute. Fines will now be up to $2,500 for a demolition violation, up to $300 for all other first violations and up to $7,500 for all second violations. They had been $100 for demolitions and $50 for all other offenses.

During the meeting, council also unanimously approved an interlocal agreement with Wayne County government that provides $1 million from the county’s EDIT fund for design and engineering of a sewer expansion for the Midwest Industrial Park.

Council also referred to the Richmond Advisory Planning Commission an ordinance that would amend the city’s Unified Development Ordinance. The plan commission will discuss that ordinance during its May 24 meeting.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.