SEBASTIAN – Residents and business owners in the City of Sebastian will get a chance to weigh in on the city’s proposed tax abatement ordinance in January. The ordinance would give the local government the ability to offer tax breaks to businesses that bring in new jobs.
“This is step two,” said City Attorney Robert Ginsburg at the city council meeting Wednesday evening.
The members of city council voted unanimously to send the ordinance to a public hearing on Jan. 13. Vice Mayor Jim Hill asked Ginsburg if the ordinance was as lean as possible so as to not tie the city’s hands in offering the tax breaks.
Ginsburg said that the ordinance covers what is necessary under state law, but in his opinion would not impede the city’s ability to implement the incentives.
City Manager Al Minner brought to the council a proposed plan for how the city would determine what businesses would be eligible and for how much of a tax break they could qualify for.
“This keeps the economic development train rolling,” Minner said, adding that the council did not need to vote on the plan, only to give him direction.
Members of the council seemed ready to support the plan, though they questioned the length and detail of the plan.
“It may be too much weight for the city,” Mayor Richard Gillmor said. “We’re not going to have our doors bust down.”
Councilman Don Wright pointed out that the city’s plan is very similar to Indian River County’s, which is based on St. Lucie County’s plan – designed for a “county much larger than Sebastian.”
Wright added that the city’s plan needs to be sized appropriately.
As it stands, the proposed plan would allow businesses in certain industries that offer 10 or more jobs qualify for the tax breaks.
The businesses could have their property taxes frozen at their current rate for a period of time – up to one decade – depending on how many jobs and what level of pay those businesses offer.
The city has identified several industries it would like to attract to the area, including clean light industrial, aviation and aerospace technology, marine, eco-tourism related businesses, and green initiatives.
Voters in Sebastian overwhelmingly approved granting power to the city council to offer tax breaks to certain businesses.