Commissioners want to extend tax abatement to smaller businesses

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to extend the proposed tax abatement program to in the hope it will provide incentives to local businesses.

The county is asking voters on the Nov. 2 ballot to consider providing tax relief to businesses that reach certain thresholds in making capital improvements and hiring more workers.

 

County officials see this as a tool to compete with counties such as St. Lucie, which has seen success in attracting new businesses and uses tax abatement as one of its selling points.

Ahead of the Nov. 2 vote in the general election, the county has put together documents to provide voters with an idea of how companies would apply, qualify and what the terms of the tax relief might be.

Commissioner Bob Solari raised the point that while the proposed rules offered incentives to outside companies coming in to build and hire local workers, there wasn’t enough to help local businesses that might expand on a smaller scale and but still would be hiring more workers.

“It will make it easier to sell to voters, if we make it better for existing companies,” he said. “One of the biggest gripes I hear is we do everything for outsiders coming in, but nothing for the existing businesses that built this community.”

After some discussion Commissioners voted to loosen the rules for how they would score an application by giving equal weight to the job-creating capital improvement whether it is for $500,000 or $5 million.

Solari’s point was that a $500,000 improvement is the much more likely scenario for a local business.

“I like the idea of giving smaller businesses a swing at this,” Commissioner Wesley Davis said.

The proposal does not affect the terms or the length of time over which the big business owner will receive the grant.  If the smaller business met all the requirements, that owner would also receive the same tax relief though he would under certain conditions have it extended over a longer period of time.

In an example the commissioners discussed a company that made a $5 million capital investment in Indian River County would receive an initial abatement in the neighborhood of $29,000. The company making a $500,000 would receive $2,900 in tax relief.

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