LORETTO, Ky. (WDRB) – Marion County Fiscal Court is moving forward with a plan that will allow new construction for Maker’s Mark to avoid local property taxes for the next 30 years.

Last week, the county approved a plan that will finance the project in exchange for a kick back from the bourbon distiller.

"We tried to find a location that was not abrasive to a lot of folks,” said Marion County Judge-Executive David Daugherty, “I know we didn't please everybody, but it was a difficult decision that we did make to do it.”

The county voted to issue up to $495 million worth of industrial revenue bonds or IRBs. An IRB is often used by counties to finance industrial development, in this case bourbon barrel storehouses.

As a result, the land and buildings will remain under the ownership of the county. The plan calls for the county to lease those to Maker’s Mark. As a result, Maker’s Mark will not be subject to local property taxes.

“We want to keep those financial benefits focused here as much as we can, so we appreciate the thoughtful, long-term view our local government is taking regarding these opportunities,” said a Maker’s Mark spokesperson.

While the county will miss out on the property tax revenue, it will still collect a distilled spirits tax on each barrel stored in the warehouses. According to Daugherty, that could amount to as much as $500,000 a year from the new storehouses.

“We need all the revenue we can get,” he said. “It is a big, big impact to our community, it really is.”

The new site will be located on Brown-Forman Road off Raywick Road, about eight miles outside of Lebanon. Several neighbors raised concerns about “whiskey fungus” and depreciating property values at last week’s fiscal court meeting.

“When you're in a rural community and you're used to a certain way things are, change is difficult,” Daugherty said.

In addition to the distilled spirit tax, Maker’s Mark also agreed to an “in-lieu of” payment structure with the Marion County Board of Education. It’s not clear how much Maker’s Mark will contribute each year.

For Daugherty, the goal all along was to keep all of Maker’s Mark’s operations in Marion County.

“They can move them somewhere else; other communities would love to have what we got,” he said.

The plan passed an initial reading last week but still needs to more votes by Fiscal Court to be fully approved. 

Reach reporter Travis Ragsdale at 502-585-0817, Tragsdale@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook.

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