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Hillsborough County ponders tax-free lure for businesses that bring new jobs

TAMPA — Saying it would help bring jobs here during the economic downturn, Hillsborough County Commission chairman Ken Hagan on Wednesday proposed a property tax exemption for businesses that expand or relocate to the county.

"We need to do everything we can to kick-start our economy and to have job creation now. It is all about jobs," Hagan said. "Whether you're JFK or Ronald Reagan, we've seen it time and again. When you cut taxes, you ignite job growth."

The exemption would apply only to taxes levied by the county, not those imposed by cities, the School Board or other entities.

It would be good for up to 100 percent of the assessed value of a property and could remain in effect for up to 10 years.

Hagan said the exemptions would be awarded on a case-by-case basis, with commissioners considering the type of business, how many jobs it would create, wages and other factors. If companies fail to deliver on the promises made to get the exemption, the money would have to be paid back to the county.

Hagan said 25 other Florida counties offer similar programs, and Polk and Sarasota counties are also considering the breaks.

Commissioner Kevin Beckner questioned the financial impact of the program to the county.

Gene Gray, director of the county's economic development department, said that it would not be a new expense, but a loss of new revenue.

"These are tax revenues we would not be collecting from a company that we probably would not have collected anyway because the project probably would not have happened in our community," Gray said.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said that even if the commission makes the final decision on who would receive the exemptions, the program would need some type of oversight.

"I'm not saying we make political decisions here, but I'm saying there needs to be checks and balances," he said.

To get on the November ballot for voters to approve the idea, the commission needs to decide the referendum language by Aug. 18.

Commissioners asked county attorneys to draft a referendum for discussion Aug. 4.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Hillsborough County ponders tax-free lure for businesses that bring new jobs 07/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 14, 2010 11:50pm]
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