Tax cuts for Manatee businesses placed on ballot

Ballot will feature biz tax cuts, indigent care question

skennedy@bradenton.comApril 10, 2013 

MANATEE -- A June 18 special election ballot will include a question for voters about business property tax exemptions and one dealing with health care for the poor, the Manatee County Commission decided Tuesday.

During a discussion about asking voters whether to levy a half-cent sales tax increase to pay for indigent health care, the tax abatement item approved last month went unmentioned.

"I think we're in a bit of a limbo," County Attorney Mitchell "Mickey" Palmer told the board later when asked whether tax abatement would still be on ballot.

The commission clarified the issue by unanimously approving a tax abatement issue for voters to decide.

If approved at the ballot box, property tax exemptions would be granted for existing companies to expand or for new companies to relocate here, officials said.

Applicants for the exemption would be evaluated by the county economic development office, said County Administrator Ed Hunzeker. Business tax relief could entail a waiver of a portion of the taxes up to 100 percent, for a period not to exceed 10 years, he said.

Hunzeker said the criteria for the business tax cut was left "open-ended" so companies that don't fit existing rules might qualify. For example, a manufacturing operation that employed few workers because of automation, but still able to generate large tax revenues might qualify, he said.

"I think you may want to entertain that type of operation," he said.

The county has never recommended a tax abatement for a retail operation, he said.

"Tax abatements relate only to improvements on the property, and each application gets individually reviewed by this board," said Palmer.

Commissioner Betsy Benac said rewarding business expansion and attracting new businesses would help Manatee compete against other places in the long run.

"I think it's important to have this tool," she said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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