County OKs car dealer’s request, delays another

Published 2:34pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Vicksburg car dealership will have reduced property taxes through 2020 based on improvements done the past two years while another was held for more questions as Warren County supervisors pledged Tuesday to make the criteria a bit more restrictive on future requests to reduce taxes for renovations.

George Carr Buick Cadillac GMC Inc., 2950 South Frontage Road, was granted the abatement Tuesday by the county board. The dealership secured an abatement from the city in 2013, though it’s not in the city’s historic district, which is bordered by the Yazoo Diversion Canal, First East Street, First North Street and an uneven south boundary along Depot, Bridge, and Grammar streets.

The county board took under advisement a smiliar application from Atwood Chevrolet, 2339 North Frontage Road, which laid out in general its renovations in 2012 that included a remodeled office building and new cooling and heating system. Supervisors cited an issue they had with verbiage in the request that indicated the dealership wanted the abatement’s basis to be the $1.4 million renovation cost itself instead of a property appraisal. The board chose not to explore whether the wording resulted from typographical errors or lax appraising. The GM dealer has been in business since 1958.

George Carr’s application was approved 4-1, as supervisors cited clearer language in the request. Documents stated the basis of the request a new showroom, offices, lighting and other work, valued at $890,303.

“I’ll vote to approve these this time,” Board President Bill Lauderdale said as the board OK’d the Carr request. “But, as far as I’m concerned, if we don’t look at this situation with the abatements in areas other than the historic district, I don’t think we need to do this.” I think we’re throwing away monies that we need to keep from spreading the burden to taxpayers that do pay taxes.”

District 2 Supervisor William Banks voted no on the Carr proposal, citing a dearth of information about job creation. Banks stayed silent on the Atwood request. The latter converts to a “yes” vote because a nay vote must be clearly stated.

“I don’t see new jobs being added to this abatement,” Banks said. “So, I’m not really sure why we’re giving an abatement. Sometimes, businesses do this in order to keep their franchise. They have to do so much of an upkeep. It’s just like a Holiday Inn. You have to have certain guidelines in order to be called a Holiday Inn.”

Carr’s GM dealership paid $22,057.84 in property taxes and related fees for 2013, while Atwood paid $33,172.79, according to Warren County tax records.

State law allows cities to discount respective taxes, except school taxes, up to seven years once a city board approves such a request. Generally, those requests in Vicksburg have come from bed-and-breakfasts, startup businesses and other establishments near downtown.

Reached Tuesday, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield acknowledged each business was outside the historic zone, but said the city had relaxed its own rules on improvement-related tax abatements due to the volume of requests. The city board voted 3-0 on each request — Atwood’s on Feb. 25, 2013, with former mayor Paul Winfield and former alderman Sid Beauman’s signatures, and Carr’s on Nov. 8, 2013, with Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s and current alderman Willis Thompson’s signatures appearing with Mayfield’s. Reports of action on the city’s agenda from its Feb. 25, 2013 meeting published in The Vicksburg Post pegged the size of Atwood’s abatement at $150,000.

Last week, county supervisors granted an improvement-related tax exemption to Cooper Lighting, based on $388,429.12 in new equipment purchased in 2013. An application from Cameron Inc. based on $2.3 million in new equipment the oil fabrication yard bought last year was taken under advisement over concerns the company hadn’t consulted enough with the Tax Assessor’s Office.

Reporter John Surratt contributed to this report. 

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