The commission voted to give the hospital in north Crestview a 5 year tax abatement to expand and add 25 to 30 permanent high paying hospital jobs. Originally this was for 10 years, and upon the final vote it was reduced to 5 years.
The FWB Tea Party was recognized during the discussion as having provided a potential solution to the issue.
I had sent the below letter to each commissioner in the last two weeks after this issue was tabled until today:
I attended the BCC meeting Tuesday on behalf of the FWB Tea Party and was struck by the conversation over the tax abatement for the hospital expansion in Crestview. I believe that we need to ensure that we have a pro-business environment in Okaloosa County, and I have noted comments in previous meetings about the Commissioners trying to speed up the permitting process.
I thought several of the concerns of the various Commissioners were valid comments, and would like to offer a potential solution.
I think the BCC should consider the creation of a set of guidelines for businesses to request a tax abatement, rather than having it done in a “one off” process.
These ideas are not set in stone, but rather to give you food for thought.
A business would be required to:
- Show a minimum of a 10 to 1 Return on Investment (ROI).
- Provide proof at the 12 month mark of any claims made in their presentation. They should be required to provide to the Board audited financial statements at the time of the original presentation and then at the completion of 12 months to demonstrate their financial performance if that is part of their presentation. If they are asking for public dollars then they should be subject to public scrutiny.
- If job growth is cited, they should be required to provide payroll records such as the Florida UTC forms and other required filings to demonstrate that job growth did occur.
The County should:
- Limit the grant to a 3 to 5 year time horizon. If a private business cannot achieve a positive ROI within that time frame, then taxpayers should not be expected to fund it.
- Define the terms of the ROI. I have several examples that I could provide but in short the County should create the template not the businesses. There are a number of ways to accurately and fairly define an ROI. I have an MBA with a Finance concentration and would be glad to lend a hand in developing a model, if appropriate.
- Promote this program on the County website and through the various Chambers of Commerce type mechanisms.
I believe this approach would addressing several of the comments I heard from the Board by:
- Enhance a pro-business mindset in the County
- Minimizing the businesses who seek an abatement by having to meet a criteria before applying for the abatement
- Limit the length of time of the abatement
- Ensure the taxpayers are making out in the long haul on any such deal
- Reduce claims of “conflict of interest” by ensuring deals are against a set criteria.
I certainly make no pretense of understanding the State and County Statutes regarding this approach, but I believe this approach would satisfy most of the comments and concerns I heard in the meeting.