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County Board to review tax abatement policy

Published 11:13 am Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A week after property tax cuts for two Vicksburg car dealerships were OK’d, the Warren County Board of Supervisors will reconsider its abatement policy for businesses that perform extensive renovations and reconstruction.

Approved in 2000, the board’s policy allows the county to vacate all ad valorem taxes, excluding those for schools, for a period of up to seven years for any privately owned commercial buildings that underwent large-scale renovations or were entirely demolished and reconstructed.

The policy came under scrutiny from board members last week during the discussion of abatements for Atwood Chevrolet and George Carr Buick Cadillac GMC Inc. and again Monday at an informal work session.

“I have got a problem with abating these taxes,” Board President Bill Lauderdale said. “I just don’t think retailers renovate because they may get an abatement.

Based on the makeovers at the two dealerships, Atwood Chevrolet will save $4,911.69 while George Carr should see a $2,625.13 cut in their payment. Exemptions also exist for industries that purchase new equipment.

Votes on each proposal were 3-2, with District 3 Supervisor Charles Selmon joining District 2 Supervisor William Banks in voting no on both applications. Banks had voted no last week on Carr’s first application.

State law allows cities to discount taxes up to seven years once a city board approves a request. It specifies central business districts, historic preservation districts, business improvement districts, urban renewal districts and historic landmarks where such exemptions may take place.

Generally, those requests in Vicksburg have come from bed-and-breakfasts, startup businesses and other establishments near downtown. City officials approved the car dealers’ applications last year with little debate despite each being located outside the historic zone.

“The only abatements I can see that I would be comfortable with are in the historic district,” Lauderdale said. “It has to be a building of significant historic value.”

Banks and county administrator John Smith discussed the possibility of creating an abatement policy tied to job creation, with Smith suggesting the use of community development block grants based on the addition of new jobs.

The tax abatements for both dealerships are effective for six years according to the language in each application.

In May, the board granted an improvement-related exemption to Cooper Lighting based on nearly $400,000 of new equipment purchased in 2013.