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Cooper, Cameron in line for tax exemptions

Published 10:52 am Friday, May 23, 2014

Two longstanding corporate citizens of Vicksburg and Warren County were in line for property tax exemptions on more than $2.7 million in new equipment purchased in 2013, while county supervisors tabled similar requests from two car dealerships.

Cooper Lighting received a personal property tax break for tax year 2014 on new equipment and machinery valued at $388,429.12, according to calculations on an application OK’d by county supervisors this week. The worldwide lighting products manufacturer has tacit approval on its city taxes and awaits final word from the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. Personal property refers to items not tied to land, such as inventories held by a business.

Cameron Inc., parent company of the former LeTourneau Technologies oilfield fabrication yard, also forwarded its application for a break on more than $2.3 million in equipment bought in 2013.

The exemptions, filed by businesses that have upgraded physical plants or added equipment, can apply real and/or personal property related to the improvements. Cooper’s exemption covers up to 10 years of ad valorem taxes due to the city and county, with state and school taxes excluded. Companies face a June 1 deadline to apply for the break and include some form of confirmation that it contacted the Tax Assessor’s Office.

Action on applications from George Carr Buick Cadillac GMC and Atwood Chevrolet was tabled. New figures on the size of the exemption were supplied last week by the two dealerships that had to be reviewed by Wes Kight, the county’s contract appraiser for real property, and board counsel, Chancery Clerk Donna F. Hardy said to the board when the item was presented. No actual vote was taken.

Cooper, which was purchased by Eaton Corp. in 2011, employs about 360 people on a $14.2 million payroll at the plant on U.S. 61 South, attorney Landy Teller told supervisors Monday during a presentation on the company’s behalf.

The vote on Cooper was 5-0 despite questions that come up every year about how many local residents the plant employs.

“That’s who the tax affects,” District 2 Supervisor William Banks said.

Teller said the plant’s entire workforce contributes to the local economy, including those who don’t live locally.

“It’s definitely a benefit,” he said. “That would be true of all our industries in Vicksburg.”

A new vertical milling apparatus worth $207,123.22 made up the bulk of Cooper’s purchases, along with 25 Dell desktop computers, worth $13,806.50, according to the application.

A $601,373 traveling gantry press was the most expensive item on Cameron’s list of purchases in 2013 submitted with their tax break request, according application documents. The total came to $2,318,305.

Equipment purchased by Cameron last year is part of a $41 million expansion announced by the Texas-based oilfield services company in 2012. The upgrade is “well underway,” said Lynne Rooker, of Harvest Group LLC, a Tennessee-based tax incentive negotiation firm hired by Cameron to secure the improvement-related tax break from the county.

Rooker told the board on Monday about 100 new hires in the past 18 months have accompanied the effort, which involves purchasing flattening presses, paint booths, cranes and a new sprinkler system.

Supervisors accepted Cameron’s application only for information — on a 3-2 vote — because the detailed paperwork had yet to be shown to Tax Assessor Angela Brown, who said Monday she had seen only an email last Friday from the consultants, or to John Lewis, the county’s contract appraiser for personal property. Equipment on Cooper’s application was inspected on paper but wasn’t visited in person, Lewis said.

District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon had moved to take both companies’ requests under advisement. He and Banks voted against holding Cameron’s for information. Lauderdale told Rooker to “get with everybody” involved in the process.