EquipmentShare's 75% property tax break application through Chapter 100 is inching closer to a review by the Boone County Commission.
Columbia City Council members in a work session Monday provided guidance to Mayor Barbara Buffaloe regarding questions she should bring to Thursday's taxing district review panel meeting. This meeting is set for 9:15 a.m. at the Regional Economic Development Inc. offices at 500 E. Walnut St.
The presentation Monday by EquipmentShare originally was intended as part of the council's closed work session, but after a request from Buffaloe was included as part of the open portion of the meeting.
EquipmentShare has to receive approval from taxing entities in the county before its application can move forward. This includes Columbia Public Schools, which gave the go-ahead last week for its voting representative to approve.
Boone County Family Resources also voted to approve last week, "with the addition of a provision supporting the employment of individuals with disabilities," wrote Laura Cravens, family resources executive director, in an email to the Tribune.
The Daniel Boone Regional Library Board of Trustees last week instructed its president, Kate Markie, to support the project at Thursday's meeting.
What EquipmentShare seeks
Matt Williams, REDI incentive subcommittee member, said that Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson in a letter has indicated support for the project, which would see a $120 million expansion of EquipmentShare's corporate office in Columbia and 555 additional jobs over five years through the tax abatement.
EquipmentShare aims to hire more veterans, minorities and women. The intent is to bring people to Columbia from the local region as well as nationwide, said Meg Judy, EquipmentShare deputy director of communications and public relations.
The EquipmentShare corporate office currently is housed in the former home of Ashley Furniture Homestore and it never was designed to support a high-tech workplace, added Amy Susán, EquipmentShare director of communications and public relations.
Other options explored have included relocating the company's corporate office to Austin, Texas, where it has a 50% property and sales tax abatement, but also no time limit, Susán said.
Columbia was hitting its on-the-job training and diversity goals, so a pause was placed on the idea of moving to Austin, Susán said.
"With your support, our vision is to build a destination corporate campus off Interstate 70, serving as a beacon of progress for our community," she said.
The corporate campus would have the flagship office building, tech development center for research and development, and a testing site.
Impacts to the city; next steps
If the tax abatement moves forward, the impact on taxing entities over 10 years is $2.4 million. The largest impacts are on Columbia Public Schools, $2 million; the city, $143,328; and the Daniel Boone Regional Library, $107,425.
The tax break is on new investments, so real estate property already owned by EquipmentShare would not receive the break.
A performance agreement, which could include suggestions by the taxing district review panel, would be developed by the Boone County Commission. If EquipmentShare were to not reach benchmarks in the performance agreement, the county could reduce how much of an abatement EquipmentShare receives.
First Ward council member Pat Fowler voiced concerns over economic impacts that could affect services over the next 10 years, particularly for low-income families, since the Chapter 100 program would lead to a reduction in property tax revenue of the new development during that time period.
There are knock-on benefits, though, said Judy, referencing in-school programs that could get students as young as 9 or 10 interested in technology fields being developed at EquipmentShare.
"It disappoints me we don't have data to show the community the benefits of tax abatements and how it alleviates the amount of suffering of our families who have the least," Fowler replied. "I'm interested in how that might be part of that performance agreement."
Fowler would like to see the performance agreement to decide whether she supports EquipmentShare's Chapter 100 application, she said.
Based on feedback from the council, Buffaloe will bring questions to the taxing entity review panel meeting related to transportation services, infrastructure, minority percent population hiring and opportunities to hire local labor, among others.
"Having a major industry to attract and retain graduates from our high schools, colleges and universities, that does give me excitement over the idea," Buffaloe said.
NOTE: This story has been updated since original publication to reflect that EquipmentShare's application is for a tax abatement, or reduction in taxes, and not a rebate where it would receive tax dollars back.
Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: EquipmentShare tax break request on verge of Boone County Commission