MANATEE -- The Manatee County Commission Tuesday unanimously OK'd a resolution allowing voters to decide via an upcoming referendum whether to allow tax exemptions to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses.
"Tax liability is a very important issue for a lot of our companies," explained Sharon Hillstrom, president and chief executive officer for the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp., during a meeting of the commission.
The Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption would bolster the county's economy by providing a critical new job-building tool, she said in a March 6 letter requesting that the issue be included on the same ballot as a half-cent sales tax referendum.
"All counties surrounding Manatee already offer up-front exemptions
for jobs and facilities," she wrote. "We are the hole in the doughnut."
The commission directed that both items be put on the ballot for a June 18 special election.
The board could exempt up to 100 percent of all property taxes, said County Attorney Mitchell "Mickey" Palmer.
Commissioner Carol Whitmore said there are "a lot of things happening at the port that can take advantage of this."
Commissioner Betsy Benac wanted to know how much the board could afford to exempt, and how to budget it.
Palmer told her that each one would be evaluated on its own merit, and that each proposal would come before the board for approval by ordinance.
"Each of these will be fully vetted with an adoption of an ordinance by this board," he said.
Such tax exemptions would give the county a real competitive advantage, said John Barnott, director of the county Building and Development Services Department.
Several CEOs he knows "are seriously considering moving their companies here," he said.
"We are at a competitive disadvantage right now," Hillstrom told the board.
Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.com.