In November of 2012, a referendum allowed Walton to give tax breaks. Walton Administrator Larry Jones reviewed the voted allowance and state statutes. This applies to enterprise and brownfield zones. Jones says the businesses located in an enterprise zone can be treated differently than other businesses in the statute. They have three, one in Freeport, one in DeFuniak Springs and one in Mossy Head.
Jones said the business has to be located in an enterprise zone. If it is a city zone, the first line of government would be to get with the city before the county would grant an exemption. Once begun, the county would look at the information provided by the business and investigates the investment the company would make and jobs to be created. Jones said staff feels the amount of wages is more important than the number of jobs. He also told commissioners the wages have to be on site, not out of county and simply related to the site.
Staff would look at the investment and decide based on a chart. He gave an example of a $3 million investment being given an exemption of 40%. If the business brings in more wages, there would be an additional 20% for a total of 60% tax break. There will also be a cap on the percent and dollar amount the business can get. Jones said this protects on the lower end and higher end. They can grant the exemptions for up to 10 years, but commissioners can change the amount. Jones said there will be an annual review of the agreement to make sure the business meets the criteria.
Commissioner Bill chapman asked if Freeport and DeFuniak Springs have gone through the process of asking the voters. Clay Adkinson, city attorney for both, said he knows DeFuniak Springs has and believes Freeport has, but was not sure. Commissioner Jones said she knows they want to support businesses and preserve jobs, but the 10 years scares her. She asked for a more conservative approach to protect the taxpayers. She said five years sounds good. Commissioner Comander agreed and made the motion to move forward.
Bill Fletcher said he applaudes the guideline, but asked for a public hearing to help make the public more aware. He said this was due to the long term economic implications. Commissioners did not take action on a delay, but did approve staff moving forward with the item returning December 9th.
Commissioners also agreed to move their second meeting from the fourth Tuesday to Monday, December 22nd at 9am.