Several criteria listed with which any company seeking a property tax exemption must comply
With the Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Office sending out vote-by-mail ballots for the Nov. 3 General Election, and sample ballots available on the office’s website, people have begun asking about a Sarasota County referendum listed at the bottom of the last page.
The ballot heading says, “Economic Development Ad Valorem (Property) Tax Exemptions.” The question is “Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Sarasota County be authorized to grant, pursuant to [Section] 3, [Article] VII of the State Constitution, property tax exemptions to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses that are expected to create new, full-time jobs in the county?”
In its Sept. 25 News and Updates email blast, the county Communications staff asks, “How much do you know about the ad valorem tax exemption?” That email blast directs people to a county webpage for details.
“In 2010,” the webpage explains, “the Sarasota County Commission adopted Ordinance No. 2010-040, which called for a special referendum election on Aug. 24, 2010, seeking authorization to grant EDAVTEs [economic development ad valorem tax incentives] to qualifying businesses. Sarasota County voters approved the referendum.”
During their regular meeting on Dec. 11, 2019, the county commissioners authorized the placement on the Nov. 3 General Election ballot of the question regarding renewal of that tax, the webpage continues.
To be eligible for the exemption, the webpage notes, an applicant must comply with the following criteria:
- Be a new business or expansion of an existing business as defined in Section 38-235 of the Sarasota County Code, which is based on the definitions in Section 196.012 of the Florida Statutes.
(That section of the County Code says the incentive is available to an eligible new or existing business that “manufactures, processes, compounds, fabricates, or produces for sale items of tangible property at a fixed location and which comprises an industrial or manufacturing plant.”)
- “Create at least 10 new full-time jobs during the first two years of the exemption.”
- Provide an annual average wage for new full-time jobs that is at least 115% of the Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) annual median income for every year of exemption. (The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development establishes the annual median income for each MSA. Sarasota County is part of an MSA with the Cities of North Port and Bradenton.)
- “Make a capital investment in its Sarasota County facility of at least $1 million during the first two years of exemption.
- “Submit an annual renewal statement and annual report for each year the exemption is granted.”
The webpage adds, “If a business does not meet the annual reporting requirements or does not fulfill any other requirements set forth during the application process, including the creation and maintenance of the total number of new jobs committed, the county commission may revoke the exemption and/or take other actions as appropriate.”
Since 2010, according to the webpage, the commission has approved nine ad valorem tax exemptions for eight companies. The total number of jobs those businesses committed to was 956, the webpage says. Yet, the companies ended up creating 1,649, with an average annual wage per job of $46,467.44.
During the Dec. 11, 2019 County Commission meeting, the item about the proposed referendum on Nov. 3 was listed as “Presentation upon Request.”
Commissioner Nancy Detert made the motion to approve putting the referendum on the ballot, and Commissioner Michael Moran seconded it.
Detert noted that, given the recent announcement that Mark Huey had resigned as president and CEO of the Economic Development Corp. of Sarasota County, she normally would want to wait on any issue regarding economic development. However, she continued, she understood county staff had to comply with certain timelines to ensure the EDAVTE measure went on the Nov. 3, 2020 ballot. “I hope that [the voters] will be well informed” before the General Election, she noted.
“That was said perfectly,” Moran added.
With no one signed up to address the issue, then-Chair Charles Hines called for the vote, and the motion passed unanimously.