The competition among eastern North Carolina cities and towns is high pressure when it comes to development and redevelopment dollars. Buildings that lie idle only spoil the overall look and function of a downtown or urban area; they also place a drain on public resources due to the need for upkeep with no tax dollars generated to support basic maintenance.
The Wayne County Board of Commissioners last week approved nearly $157,000 in tax incentives for a downtown development. Although we would oppose the county offering any far-reaching tax incentives, we see a vital purpose for this 10-year plan.
The proposal from the Downtown Goldsboro Development Corp. calls for an $11 million project downtown that will refurbish just under 70,000 square feet of old space and turn it around into 57 residential apartments and 12,000 square feet of first-floor commercial area for lease. Julie Metz, DGDC director, said the project could bring about $600,000 in new revenues to downtown business. With incentives paid over 10 years, this project appears to be a win-win for the public and private sectors and therefore garners our support, all things being equal.
The caution we offer is that other such tax-incentive proposals for elected officials to consider must be handled on a strict schedule. County commissioners first held a public hearing in November 2017 and passed a tax incentive plan. The project lay dormant for a while, so another vote was required last week to jump-start the effort. We believe commissioners did their due diligence to ensure the project was the same as — if not better than — the 2017 proposal. Something paid for, in this case with tax incentives, 16 months earlier could have been dramatically different, even inferior, with time. Again, we believe in this case the county examined the entire project and was satisfied it was the same or an improved version of what was offered in 2017.
Also, it is crucial that commissioners and city officials realistically look at what tax incentives mean. In our report last week, Commissioner Wayne Aycock seemed to be looking for assurances that all the country was providing to the project were tax incentives. “There is no direct money flowing out of our fund balance or anything?” he asked. “It is just the tax incentive,” Aycock added rhetorically.
Well, since the county does not have the authority to refund taxes, the tax must be paid before the incentives are paid. Taxes in and then taxes out means the money is going out from some county fund, likely the general fund. The good thing, in this case, is that the properties currently generate $1,523 annually in property taxes. After the 10-year tax incentive plan ends, it’s estimated the properties will bring in about $23,000 per year to the county.
It’s just another reason why this plan gets our support.