FCEDC revises tax abatement policy

2/28/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

Revisions to Finney County's tax abatement policy include a $1,000 application fee and a streamlining of the document to more accurately spell out the process for interested businesses.

The Finney County Economic Development Corp. approved the revisions on Wednesday, which a committee had been working on for several months. The proposal will next go to the county commission for approval.

Tax abatements are an economic development tool for new businesses or existing businesses that are expanding. Money normally paid in taxes can instead be used by the firm to develop the business. The abatement is tied to a performance metric, such as providing a certain number of jobs or reaching a certain sales tax generation benchmark. At the end of the year, the business must report and prove it reached the agreed upon metric, or it could lose the abatement.

FCEDC board member Bob Kreutzer said the goal is to have a policy with one set of standards that affects all applicants equally so everyone plays by the same rules, and also to make the steps in the process clear.

Kreutzer said the existing abatement policy is relatively solid but needed some revisions. The changes include clarifying that the applicant is responsible for the end-of- year report and creating a one-page outline summarizing the steps of the tax abatement process, the responsibilities of the applicant and the county, and ensuring applicants know that even if the county approves the abatement it isn't final until the state of Kansas board of tax appeals also approves.

Kreutzer said the application fee is designed to ensure people are serious about going through with the process, which involves a "phenomenal amount of paperwork," before the county assessor begins the process.

"It becomes a very straightforward procedure that everyone knows what to expect the way they ask for it," Kreutzer said.

FCEDC President Lona DuVall said the old policy's language wasn't as concise as the new verbiage, which caused some confusion about tax abatements in the past. The new policy should be more easily understood.

"It wasn't user friendly for the folks applying for it," she said.

In other business Wednesday:

* The board authorized sending a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service expressing opposition to listing the lesser prairie chicken on the endangered species list. Such a listing would essentially stop development over a wide area, according to board chairman Tom Walker.

Walker said it would shut down major sources of production such as oil and gas exploration, wind energy generation and construction of transmission lines.

"Economically, it doesn't make much sense," he said.

* DuVall reported on the status of several prospects:

A logistics facility was in Garden City earlier this month looking at potential sites. The company visited with the railroad and city staff, DuVall said, and were pleased with what they saw in Finney County. FCEDC is compiling a list of various companies already here that the facility may be able to service.

An industrial business that could create 50 jobs looked at local sites at the end of December. DuVall discussions are continuing about a site with rail access the company is interested in.

An industrial/manufacturing/fabrication type company is considering relocating here from Texas. The FCEDC sent it a full prospectus last week regarding state incentives and opportunities to leverage business with various companies locally that might be able to use its services. The company is negotiating for a building currently, and could bring 25 jobs to the community.

A developer is working to create an agreement with two landowners in the county that would lead to the development of a northwest industrial park. DuVall said infrastructure needed includes water and sewer. The property is currently set up to be broken into several smaller parcels, but may be sold in larger parcels based on interest from various prospects.

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