Ensuring consistency and uniformity in local tax abatement procedure is the rationale behind Ordinance 3-2005, recently approved on the first reading by the Clay County Council at its March meeting.
As a representative of the Clay County Redevelopment Commission, Mary Jo Alumbaugh addressed the Council to help clarify the reasoning behind it as well as answer any questions.
As stated in the ordinance, the Council previously adopted a resolution requiring all petitions for abatements, which provide tax incentives to qualifying new businesses, to first be reviewed and considered by the Commission before being presented to Council members. Due to mistakes and errors in the past with procedures and documents used in tax abatements, the Council hopes to streamline and organize procedures for applying and receiving tax abatements to ensure consistency and uniformity in abatements, as well as creating a single contact point for initiating and obtaining information regarding the abatements.
All requests and petitions for real or personal property tax abatements, or both, in Clay County must first be reviewed and considered by the Commission. Its members will then review all abatement requests and make a recommendation to the Council whether or not it should be granted, although the Council is not bound by the recommendation. The Commission will also establish procedures for considering and reviewing abatements and shall create general guidelines for the public concerning abatements.
The Commission will also assist those seekaing an abatement by preparing all documentation necessary to consider and grant an abatement by preparing the necessary documentation to consider and grant an abatement, such as SB-1 forms, petitions requesting abatements, designating and confirming resolutions, target area resolutions, required public notices and clawback agreements. Commission designees will also arrange for the publication of required notices related to the abatement.
The cost associated with these services, including publication costs, for those seeking abatements is $750 for a single abatement, either real or personal, the abatement application filing fee. A fee of $900 will be charged for a dual abatement, both real and personal, to defray legal expenses in retaining counsel to prepare the necessary documentation in consultation with the applicant. The filing fee will only be required of applicants who actually file a request for abatement. Fees will not be charged to persons or bodies who merely make inquiries about abatements or obtain information about abatements from the Commission.
Council members had questions about the fees, and noted that while the fees are fair, some companies will use their own legal consultants. Alumbaugh explained that they must pay the fee because either way, the county will use its own counsel, and those funds will be passed on to the attornies. However, companies or individuals seeking tax abatement may use either attornies or other persons to work with the county. The Council will take the Commission's recommendations under advisement, but its members will ultimately make the final decision.
"This ordinance establishes a fee," Alumbaugh said. "It standardizes the way we award the abatements."
She also explained that companies seeking tax abatement always inquire about standard procedure, which will allow them to be aware of the fees before proceeding with their endeavors.
The Council voted to suspend the rules requiring two readings before an ordinance is passed, then voted to approve the ordinance. Council members Rita Rothrock and John Price could not be in attendance.
The Clay County Council regularly meets the first Monday of the month in the Commissioners Courtroom at the Clay County Courthouse. Meetings start at 6 p.m. and are open to the public.