NORMAL — Heartland Community College became the second major taxing body to approve a property tax abatement agreement with Rivian Automotive for the former Mitsubishi Motors North America property Tuesday night.
Earlier in the day, the McLean County Board's executive committee endorsed the proposal.
The Heartland board's action came at the same meeting at which trustees approved an estimated property tax levy of $26.2 million, which likely would increase Heartland's share of the tax bill for the owner of a $165,000 house to $323.67 — an increase of about $25.
Rivian must employ 500 workers and invest $40.5 million in the plant by the end of 2021 to get incentives, but Rivian plans to employ 1,000 workers and invest $175 million in the site through 2024 — starting with traditionally owned electric cars to be made in 2019 and available in 2020.
Before Rivian makes a vehicle, however, a few things must be finalized: the company must buy the former Mitsubishi plant from Maynards Industries for terms that Rivian CEO RJ Scaringe said have been decided but are still secret — he called it an “all-cash” deal; Rivian and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity must agree on state incentives; and other local taxing bodies must approve the abatement.
Rivian also has not yet negotiated with Normal precisely which ancillary services the town will provide at the site, said town Communications Director Dan Irvin. Those services are to include mowing and snow removal.
The college district received $42,000 from the most recent property tax payment from the Mitsubishi property.
Noting that the abatement and levy votes were taking place the same night, board Chairman Gregg Chadwick asked how the district would make up for the taxes being abated.
Doug Minter, vice president of business services, said it's unlikely the district would have continued to receive that much money from the property, especially if the building were torn down, which could happen if the Rivian Automotive deal doesn't go through.
The district received more than $11 million in property tax revenue for its operations in the last fiscal year.
President Rob Widmer said the money lost from the tax abatement would be taken into account when budgeting but he sees the agreement as a “long-term gain.”
Scaringe told the board he anticipates creating “a mutually beneficial relationship” with education facilities, including Heartland, that would include internships.
“Our mission, our objectives, are 100 percent aligned with those of the community,” said Scaringe.
Marc Tiritilli, a candidate for mayor of Normal, spoke against the abatement during the public comment session before the vote.
Calling on the Heartland board “not to get caught up in the euphoria,” Tiritilli said that even if the plant were torn down, it would employ more people in the next few years than Rivian.
But board member Don Gibb said later in the meeting, “I'd much rather create jobs by building something than by tearing something down.”