City asks county to support Home Depot tax break

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2002

Mayor Laurence Leyens, left, addresses the Warren County Board of Supervisors Monday at the courthouse while South Ward Alderman Sid Beauman and North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young look on.(The Vicksburg Post/C. TODD SHERMAN)

[06/18/02]Vicksburg officials went before county supervisors Monday seeking their support to bring a Home Depot development to Vicksburg, but reached no agreement about tax incentives being requested by the developer.

Ergon Properties wants up to $900,000 in tax increment financing from local governments for road improvements, traffic signals and water and sewer connections at the site on South Frontage Road. A 25-acre parcel between Halls Ferry Park and Bazinsky Road has been selected for the home-improvement business and other stores.

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While city officials are saying they are ready to move forward with the request, Richard George, president of Warren County’s governing board, said supervisors aren’t willing to give up the additional tax revenue.

“This project, when we first were approached, was a done deal,” George said. “Why give up tax revenue from growth when we don’t have to?”

Tax increment financing, or TIF, is a tool used by local governments to encourage economic growth. Using a TIF, bonds or some other form of a loan is used to pay for access roads and other site work, and the cost is paid back through increased tax revenue the developed property generates.

Tax increment financing has been used before for most developments here, including Pemberton Square mall, Vicksburg Factory Outlets, the Wal-Mart SuperCenter site and River Region Medical Center. There is no up-front cost to the public treasury in TIF.

Consultants who put the deal together say the Home Depot development and out parcels surrounding the site are expected to cost about $17.7 million and generate an additional $515,000 in real and personal property taxes and sales taxes to the city. Of that, $75,000 to $100,000 would be needed to repay the TIF yearly for 10 years.

“What’s really going on here, unfortunately, is that you know our board is going to do the right thing. You’re banking on it,” Mayor Laurence Leyens told supervisors before leaving the courthouse.

The city board later voted to accept a plan for the tax increment financing from Ergon and set the required public hearing for 10 a.m. June 28 at City Hall Annex. No action was taken to approve the TIF, but Leyens said that since last week when the TIF request was made public, most of the calls to his office has been in favor of the tax incentives.

“The feedback that we have received is that this community does support a TIF and I’m asking that each of you go back and assess your district to see if they will support it,” said North Ward Alderman Gertrude Young.

Supervisors said that they have not gotten an official request from Ergon for the tax incentives and were not prepared to vote on the matter until a presentation is made before that board. District 4 Supervisor Bill Lauderdale also that the problems between the city and county were a miscommunication.

“There’s a lot of things we can do with communication, but it doesn’t have to be in front of the cameras,” Lauderdale said. “To me, no one here is showing good leadership.”

Once opened, Home Depot is expected to employ 200 people locally, the consultants say. The improvements are also expected to generate about $201,100 in property taxes to the city, county and schools. Today, annual taxes on the property are about $2,000.

Ergon, based in Jackson, is best known for its oil- and paving-related business, including operations in Vicksburg. A division of the company, however, has real estate ventures, including commercial and mixed-use properties.

Home Depot operates 1,332 stores internationally, including more than 1,200 in the United States. The Atlanta-based company was founded in 1978.