Tampa City Council schedules March 1 referendum to offer tax breaks to new businesses
TAMPA — Craving new jobs and desperately needed growth, Tampa City Council members Thursday embraced the idea of offering property tax breaks to new or expanded businesses.
“If passed by the voters, this is another tool in our tool chest to be utilized for economic development and job creation,’’ said City Council chairman and mayoral candidate Thomas Scott.
Council members unanimously voted to place a referendum on the March 1 city election ballot asking Tampa voters to approve the exemptions.
If voters say yes, the city could, at its discretion, give businesses up to a 100 percent exemption from property taxes for the assessed value of new or expanded operations.
Companies also could get a tax break for investments on tangible personal property — furniture, fixtures, machinery, tools, signs, supplies and any other equipment used in a business.
The tax waiver could last for up to 10 years. It would apply only to city taxes, not those levied by the School Board or other local taxing authorities.
In November, Hillsborough County voters approved the creation of a similar economic incentive program for county taxes by a vote of 64 to 36 percent.
Mayor Pam Iorio’s administration brought the issue forward in the city, partly to prevent the creation of an uneven playing field if the tax breaks existed in the county but not in the city.
If Tampa voters approve the program, companies would have to apply for the tax break, and would be required to provide details about their new operations and what equipment they bought to run them.
Before the city could approve the requests, the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser would provide a breakdown of what the city could expect in property tax revenues, what impact previously awarded property tax exemptions would be expected to have on those revenues and how much tax revenue the city would lose from the requested exemption.
Prior to Thursday’s vote, the proposal gained the support of at least one other candidate to replace Iorio. Former council member Bob Buckhorn wrote the council, saying that passing the proposal “would send a clear message that Tampa is open and eager for business.”
“Historically, Florida has suffered from an inability to offer incentives to businesses, which has put us at a competitive disadvantage,” Buckhorn said.
He said the city could use the tax breaks to target companies in biotechnology and life sciences, financial services, defense, cybersecurity and maritime industries.