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Board accepts businesses’ application for tax breaks

The Warren County Board of Supervisors may be cautious about tax exemption and abatements, but Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said the Board of Mayor and Aldermen has no reservations about granting them in the city.

“We’re going to approve all abatements (tax breaks),” Flaggs said Thursday. “We believe it’s an incentive.”

His comments came after a meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen where the board accepted freeport license applications from drilling equipment manufacturer Keppel LeTourneau USA, CITGO Petroleum and Vicksburg Forest Products.

He said the comments were not a criticism of the supervisors, who are taking a cautious approach in approving tax break requests.

A freeport license allows a business to operate as a free port warehouse and be exempt from ad valorem, or property, taxes on inventoried property shipped out of state.

The board previously accepted applications from Gavilon Grain, Gavilon Fertilizer and Cooper Lighting. If approved by the board, the six companies’ inventories would be exempt from city property taxes.

According to information from the Warren County Assessor’s Office, the exemptions, if approved by the city, total $294,260. Keppel LeTourneau, which would pay $268,377 in property tax without the exemption, pays no property tax if its exemption is approved.

Warren County Supervisors on June 15 rejected similar applications from the same six companies that would have allowed county tax exemptions, with the exception of school taxes, on their inventories.

The decision was part of the supervisors’ policy to closely scrutinize tax exemptions and abatements because the county is faced with spending millions in matching funds to repair roads throughout the county.

“The county is in a situation where we have to scrutinize all of our financial situations because of the need to be able to have cash flow and handle the $10 million road fixes that are necessary here in our county,” Board of Supervisors President Dr. Jeff Holland said at the June 15 meeting. “Until we come out from under that, we have to pay enormous attention to each of these things.”

Flaggs had a different view.

“The abatement is merely a tax exemption that we give to business on their inventory,” he said at Thursday’s meeting. He said tax exemptions are an incentive to attract business to Vicksburg and stay.

“However,” Flaggs said, “The county has made a decision that they have denied some of the ones (exemption applications) we sent over there. That’s the county’s business. For the city, we’re open for business and we’re going to stay in business, and we’re going to do tax abatements if I’m alive because I believe in incentivizing business.”

Flaggs said the tax breaks allow businesses the opportunity to expand and grow and develop. Tax breaks, he said, “Are a great attraction for somebody to come in here.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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