CALEDONIA, Mich. — In 2015, Switch Inc. chose West Michigan for their new data center location. They occupied the then-vacant pyramid building in Gaines Township that used to house Steelcase.
"Since we've moved here there's been over 800 full-time jobs related to our business here in the community. Within a five mile radius there's been over $400 million in new economic investment that's occurred surrounding the pyramid," said Natalie Stewart with Switch.
But that came with a cost—meaning tax breaks for the data company.
"At the beginning of this year we did receive some tax bills on special assessments and there is a discrepancy. There are conflicting statutes. One says that there is a complete abatement of all taxes and special assessments and the other statute is unclear so we're just trying to clarify the language between the two statutes," said Stewart.
Michigan Senate Bill 455 would clear Switch of those tax burdens retroactively which means school districts like Kent ISD and Caledonia would have to pay back more than $600,000.
"Corporations in Michigan have been provided relief and so schools in general are underfunded, and this is sort of that issue in a microcosm," said Ron Caniff with Kent ISD.
Caniff is Superintendent of Kent ISD which oversees more than a dozen school districts in Kent County.
"They're asking for in our view for tax relief of school taxes above and beyond what any other business and any renaissance owned gets in the state of Michigan let alone Kent County," said Caniff.
"I don't necessarily share the same outlook that he has on this. The reason why this situation was created to begin with was to create parity in 28 other states and states surrounding Michigan to make Michigan competitive in the data center industry," said Stewart.
Caniff says if the tax breaks stand, the bill would have to paid by people in the community.
"I would say for Caledonia Community schools, that burden would be passed on to the homeowners and other businesses located within Caledonia community schools. That bill has to be paid for bonded debt so it's a question of who pays it," says Caniff.
The bill has passed the Michigan Senate and is now before the state House. A hearing is expected in the coming weeks.
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