District looks to stimulate industry

Staffers working on tax exemption bylaw

With a bylaw now in place providing tax exemptions for businesses and property owners who meet specific criteria by making physical improvements, the District of Houston is now turning its attention to encouraging the development of new industrial concerns or the expansion of existing ones.

And so the District council has now given its staffers the go ahead to draft a bylaw that would provide tax exemptions based on the value of increased assessments of industrial properties.

In outlining the direction given to District staffers by council, chief administrative officer Gerald Pinchbeck provided four guiding principles:

– increase the total assessed value of industrial properties within the District

– exemptions are to be granted on the basis of increases to the assessed value of properties

– expanding the type of businesses and availability of industrial services in the community

– providing the same program for both light and heavy industry

In setting out the guiding principles, council relied on a six-page backgrounder prepared by District corporate services officer Jennifer Bruns.

One of its key points was that a tax exemption on improvements only or new construction is not taxation lost, just delayed for however many years council decided to provide the exemption.

In examples provided by other local governments, exemption periods ranged from four to 10 years with a sliding percentage that decreases as the number of exemption eligible years increases so that, for instance, a 100 per cent exemption in the first year declines to 10 per cent in the tenth year.

The backgrounder did propose, for council’s consideration, that an investment of between $100,000 and $150,000 and the creation one job be required as a minimum buy-in.

District finance director Yun Ke Ni, in supporting comments to the backgrounder, noted “the program will sacrifice general municipal property tax dollars for the period of the exemption, delayed the direct financial benefit the District would receive.”

“However, this program would seek to incentivize investment that would benefit the District in future years.”

Houston and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Maureen Czirfusz said the organization was excited to have the District develop an exemption bylaw aimed at the industrial sector.

”This program will assist the efforts to attract investments to the community,” she said.

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