First Bank of Berne granted abatement

Authored by Jim Langham on Sep 25, 2013

Jason Hilty, vice-president/chief financial officer and Joe Caffee, a senior vice-president for the First Bank of Berne, were present at the Berne City Council meeting on Monday evening to ask for a tax abatement in relation to renovation in their downtown presence, the construction of a new building and further construction on their U.S. 27 branch.
Hilty told the council that the First Bank of Berne is a growing employer and will create future jobs for the local economy. He noted that the banking industry is rapidly consolidating which will enhance the bank’s future growth potential.
“The First Bank of Berne completed its first acquisition in 2012 and is actively looking for additional opportunities as they become available,” Hilty said. “We plan to create 10 new jobs over the next three years with a total payroll of $450,000 in new wages.
“Our current location is completely full. We expect to fill over half of the new jobs once the new construction is completed,” continued Hilty. “The future jobs being created are highly technical in nature with wages $5,000 above the state average.”
Hilty said that 72 total jobs will be retained and created. He noted that the jobs are non-manufacturing and help diversify the local employment base.
The scope of the total bank project involves renovation of the Family Life Care building to house the re-located downtown facility, construction of a new organizational building on the north side of town and an addition, which will include new lock boxes, added to the north branch facility.
Hilty said that in 1991, the second floor was mainly storage and looked the same as it did in 1905. A renovation of both floors was completed at the time. Since then, said Hilty, every storage room, closet and nook were converted to office space.
“Lack of space has hindered our ability to hire needed additional staff,” said Hilty.
The new building, otherwise known as a Bank Operations Building, will be a place where account records and statements are processed for over 42,000 deposit and loan customers and retained for seven years. Also at the new facility, checks written by customers will be scanned, imaged and retained for seven years.
“Nearly 80 percent of all loan documents are created in this building for the customer to sign,” said Hilty. “Once signed, all documents are scanned and retained electronically for 10 years after the loan is paid off.”
Job titles located in the building will include senior credit analyst, lead consumer processing coordinator, deposit systems specialist, secondary market coordinator, retail manager, business process improvement specialist and content management specialist.
When asked what has made the local bank so successful in a climate of diminishing and failed bank institutions, Caffee answered that many of the failed institutions had significant loan quality issues, they couldn’t comply with rules and regulations and experienced a lack of general leadership and success in planning their future.
The current assessed value of the land is $10,300 generating $192 of real estate taxes. Once the phase-in expires, an additional $3 million will be added to the tax base generating approximate $60,000 to $90,000 in annual real estate taxes.
Council voted 4-0 to grant the tax abatement and praised the bank for its successful presence and leadership in the community.
“I would like to compliment the Bank of Berne for everything they do for the community and their foresight. This is great news for the City of Berne,” said Mayor Bill Mckean.
“This is an incredible building; it will be a huge asset to the city of Berne,” said Councilman Mark Wynn. “Because there will still be a presence downtown, people will not be disappointed.”

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