Before continuing a $10 million tax abatement for Lippert Components Inc. on a 4-2 vote, city council members asked Tuesday (June 19) whether they had a right to tell a major employer in Goshen, Ind., how to run its business.

As reported by the Elkhart Truth, in a vote held over from the previous meeting, council found Lippert in compliance with the terms of a 2013 phase-in of the personal property taxes on up to $10 million in new equipment. Those terms include projections for additional jobs and payroll, and council must determine every year whether the company is making progress, or at least making an attempt, for the abatement to continue.

On paper, the company has so far made an investment valued at $7.8 million but again failed to meet its estimate of 376 additional employees, reporting that it added only 77 as of 2017. Discussion Tuesday was similar to the compliance hearing last year, and council members Julia King and Adam Scharf again voted against continuing the abatement based on the employment numbers the company reported.

“I think it’s great that they’re thriving, yet at the same time, it doesn’t seem like we’re at the letter of the agreement, or the number of the agreement,” King said.

The tax abatement applies to three Lippert locations in Goshen. Group Controller Troy Wuthrich said part of the reason for the apparent low numbers is because of moving employees from those to other locations in town to keep up with demand. He also pointed out that the lowest starting wage is $15 an hour and that, at $24.3 million, payroll for new employees is more than twice the original estimate given for the 376 projected new jobs.

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