County Board of Supervisors needs to reevaluate tax abatement

Published 11:04 am Friday, April 4, 2014

This week the Warren County Board of Supervisors met informally to discuss, among other items, a tax abatement for developers of the refurbished Aeolian Senior Apartments. The building at Cherry and Clay streets reopened in December after a two-year, $8 million makeover that now houses low-income seniors in 60 luxury-style apartments. It had been vacant for about 22 years prior to the reconstruction.
During the meeting board president Bill Lauderdale stated “There’s no way I would vote to let them have any kind of tax abatement after hearing what all I’ve heard about the Section 42 program in the past.” The city of Vicksburg awarded the owners of the building, Texas-based Brownstone Inc., a tax abatement in December. The three-story structure passed an inspection in December from the city’s Department of Community Development and developers were granted an abatement based on improvements, according to a resolution passed later that month and other documents. The abatement is for seven years and covers the former Carr Central building the Texas firm is rebuilding as low-income apartments for families. No numbers had come available from the county Tax Assessor’s Office on how much property taxes either complex would pay in county taxes for 2014, supervisors said.
Lauderdale said he opposes tax breaks on top of what the state allows on the front end based on accounts he heard from contract appraisers who work in other areas of the state.
“Wes Kight told me there was a Jim Walter home next to a Section 42 property up in Humphreys County, and the Jim Walter home was paying out more in taxes than the big development was,” he said.
How can Mr. Lauderdale already have his mind made up if no facts have been presented yet? Would a judge and jury convict and sentence someone based on the facts of a similar case in another county? We think not.
It seems that board president Bill Lauderdale is not the only supervisor with a made up mind. “They’re already going to be getting what the state allows them to get,” District 1 Supervisor John Arnold said. “We don’t have to agree to (another abatement).”
In recent decades, the autonomous Warren County Board of Supervisors has been more apt to approve improvement-related tax abatements for large industries. In 2013, the lone applicant was Anderson-Tully, which secured reduced property tax rates for 10 years on about $12 million in inventory and equipment added in 2012.
If the county board can award tax abatements to industries that can afford to pay large tax bills, why not award one to a firm that is providing affordable housing where affordable housing is at a premium?
Our community governments have to be willing to work together if we are to see development. The County Board of Supervisors needs to be able to sit down with The Board of Mayor and Alderman and come to some form of agreement. Mayor George Flaggs Jr. left the state legislature to run our city more effectively and more efficiently. He ran for office on a platform of cooperation. The city of Vicksburg can not grow without the county and the county can not grow without the city. Our elected officials owe it the residents of Warren County to work together.