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Commission considers tax abatement as business lure

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

How do you attract businesses to your city? Tease them with incentives.

That was one of the topics at Monday night’s Chiefland City Commission meeting. City Manager Kevin Gay, in an effort to improve the city’s economy, suggested commissioners consider putting a tax abatement plan in the works to be placed on the upcoming ballot for city elections.

“It’s the only tool we have,” Gay said about getting businesses to come to Chiefland or as encouragement for existing businesses to expand.

The commission would have to decide on how much and for how long a prospective company could receive an abatement, he said, and then the voters would have final say on whether or not it was put into effect.

But commissioners weren’t sold as of Monday night, asking that staff put together more information on a plan before making a decision about putting it on the August ballot.

Mayor Teal Pomeroy said he was unsure about how a tax abatement plan would fly with the commission, considering how he suggested in the recent past to do away with impact fees for businesses in an effort to attract them to Chiefland. That suggestion didn’t get too far with the commission or members of the public, who asked how the city, which has in the last few years been struggling financially, could afford to not collect impact fees.

Nationally, tax abatement plans have been seen as both beneficial and as having a cost greater than the benefit in being overly generous.

 

In other matters:

• Commissioners voted unanimously in favor of requesting its county funding for Chiefland Fire Rescue for the next year in the amount of $217,016. The money is, potentially, the same amount received the year prior, if one figures in the $12,000 or so allotted for capitol purchases of gear and equipment, though the city is asking that this year its award forego that measure. The city is also asking that its funds arrive in monthly installments, all of which will help the fire department keep up with rising costs, according to city officials.

• Commissioners unanimously approved applying for a grant that would pay for historical research for the city’s old train depot, as well as some interior upgrades within the building.

Normally, according to Gay, the city would be required to match the grant, which could be as much as $50,000. But that requirement is waived for cities like Chiefland that are accredited by the Rural Economic Development Initiative in the city’s commitment to improve its economy.

City Financial Coordinator Laurie Copeland said the research for the train depot is the first step in having it placed on a state historical registry, which is the step needed to have it placed on a national registry.