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Brooksville should hold Flagstone Pavers to tax break agreement

Here's the flawed mathematical logic of the Brooksville City Council: A company entitled to a 100 percent tax abatement for creating 26 new jobs gets to keep four-fifths of the tax break for just three new jobs and two vacancies — or 19 percent of its employment goal.

The company, Flagstone Pavers, will get the discount on its city real estate taxes, worth $23,000, after telling the council its sales are up over a year ago, it has completed a $1 million addition, plans another 3-acre expansion and has never laid off an employee.

Instead of fumbling for how much of a break to grant the company, a more legitimate question from the council should have been this: It seems like you have plenty of money for other things, why not pay the full tax bill?

Under the terms of the city's 2003 economic incentive ordinance, Flagstone was entitled to a five-year 100 percent tax abatement (and 75 percent for another five years) on the value of its 2006 addition. The expansion, valued at $4.7 million, would have added almost $29,000 to the city coffers this year under the tax rate of just under $6.07 per $1,000. To earn the incentive, the company was supposed to boost its payroll from 40 workers to 66. Flagstone never met its goal and employment peaked at 63. It now has just 43 workers and representatives said there are two vacancies that will be filled.

Incredibly, council member Emory Pierce suggested the city simply do away with the monitoring provisions of its ordinance.

"Don't count employees ever again. As long as they're open for business, they're entitled,'' Pierce said in offering to maintain the tax break at 75 percent of its current value.

So much for accountability. He was overruled, ever so slightly, by the rest of the council, which wanted continued employment updates, but bumped the rebate to 80 percent under the twisted reasoning that Flagstone deserved it because it nearly met its goal when its payroll hit 63 people.

Nobody disputes Flagstone's value to the community in being a primary industry that buys local materials and ships its finished products outside the county. The company said 85 percent of its work force lives locally. However, Flagstone failed to fulfill its employment obligations to the city and its taxpayers, and doesn't deserve the reward authorized by council.

This is a city that is so strapped for cash it is again investigating new assessments to cover public safety costs and contemplating reinstallation of red light cameras to bolster its budget. Instead of asking other residents and businesses to pay more through such gimmickry, the council would do better to re-examine economic incentives that stymie revenue growth.

An 80 percent tax cut for a current payroll expansion of less than 8 percent is a ludicrous payoff.

Brooksville should hold Flagstone Pavers to tax break agreement 04/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 8:19pm]
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