One Jackson County supervisor said the county held Mississippi Power Co.’s feet to the fire Monday over a tax exemption the company asked for, and residents of the county will benefit to the tune of millions.
But other supervisors said they see it as shifting the biggest benefit from the county school district to the county as a whole. Either way, Mississippi Power will pay $3 million more in taxes over the next 10 years, under the plan supervisors negotiated, and the county will have $6.2 million more each year in new revenue.
The Jackson County School District will, however, take a hit and collect less than Mississippi Power originally negotiated as part of the deal, about $30 million less.
In the end, Jackson County schools will get $59 million over the next 10 years in new tax money and Jackson County residents will see $61 million flowing in for road repairs, more deputies and other county services from the company’s tax bill.
Economic development leaders in the county said the negotiation was fair and consistent with the county’s tax exemption policy for business and industry.
Four of five supervisors voted for the exemption, which meant the company would pay more than they wanted to. They were Board President Melton Harris, Troy Ross, Ken Taylor and Randy Bosarge.
Supervisor Barry Cumbest voted against it, expressing concern that the schools would get less in the deal.
Mississippi Power was slated to pay more in taxes because it spent $563 million in improvements to Plant Daniel in north Jackson County, where they installed a coal scrubber tower to improve air quality from burning coal to produce power.
“It’s important our customers know Mississippi Power pays the second largest tax investment in Jackson County,” said Jeff Shepard, spokesman for the utility. “When the company is able to reduce the amount of property taxes the company pays, that reduction is passed along to our customers.”
Based on the value of the expenditure, Mississippi Power could have been on the hook for $184 million in taxes over the next 10 years. State law, however, allows them to ask the county to exempt them for up to 66 percent of that — an exemption that applies to schools and the county. Jackson County, however, has its own exemption policy.
“The schools were going to get money, but the county was going to get almost nothing,” Supervisor Randy Bosarge said about the original proposal. “Now Jackson County is going to get more than $6 million a year, whereas it was going to get far less ($3 million the first year and less each year after).
“We’re getting more so we can do more for the citizens of Jackson County,” he said. “It finally worked out for the citizen taxpayer for a change.”
Bosarge, a new supervisor this year, said it started for him when he saw how much Mississippi Power could be required to pay in taxes.
County Economic Development Foundation Director George Freeland said Mississippi Power asked for the full exemption as expected.
But instead of a 66 percent exemption, the county allowed only 35 percent.
“They struck a good business deal for the county and the school district, while providing some relief for a company in the county,” Freeland said. “They did something substantially less, but they still gave a tax exemption.”
Freeland and the foundation are responsible for recruiting new business and industry to the county.
“There is nothing negative or contrary in economic development in this,” he said. “It is a good deal for the people of Jackson County. They (county supervisors) were consistent with their policy, and that’s a very positive economic development message. They used their tax exemption policy to get a good deal.”