By Lyndsie Kiebert
Bonner County Commissioners approved four business property tax exemptions Tuesday in an effort, they said, to stimulate local business growth and create more well-paying, permanent jobs.
Mountain Metals, a metal fabricating business which just built a new facility in Ponderay, will receive a 75% tax exemption. Sandpoint Properties, which has been working to expand medical facilities and bring more medical professionals to Ponderay, qualified for a 50% exemption. Ponderay Industrial Park, which houses the new Diedrich Roasters facility, received a 50% exemption. Local contractor Idagon Homes qualified for a 75% exemption. The BOCC is able to choose anywhere from zero to 100% exemptions, and all aforementioned contracts are valid for five years.
Exemptions apply only to improvements on the part of the business outlined in their applications to the BOCC, not base value, so each business will still be paying property taxes based on prior values. Once the five-year exemption contract is up, the businesses will start paying on the improvements and those improved values will show in their respective taxing districts. The contracts with the four businesses approved Tuesday all start in 2019.
Each business will receive a yearly audit from the Bonner County Assessor’s Office to ensure they’re upholding their end of the agreement to provide “significant economic benefits,” according to county statute. The BOCC is able to deem contracts invalid if businesses do not accomplish what benefits are initially agreed upon — for instance, if a company says it will create 10 jobs in two years and does not fulfill that promise.
The commissioners held a public hearing May 10 regarding the proposed exemptions, where attorney Mauricio Cardona with the Davillier Law Group provided more information on the program. He said it’s a property tax exemption created by the Idaho legislature that allows county commissioners to use their discretion in offering the exemption to local businesses. In theory, the lowered financial burden will help businesses make investments that ultimately benefit the county.
Cardona said that in order to qualify, businesses must be making at least a $500,000 investment and be commercial or industrial in nature.
“We’re trying to not only bring businesses to the area, we’re also trying to help sustain the businesses that are already here, and trying to make them flourish and add jobs,” Commissioner Jeff Connolly said Tuesday. “That’s what the legislation allows us to do, and we think it’s a good thing.”
Until this week, the county had only granted two business tax exemptions through the Idaho statute: both in 2016, for Litehouse Foods and Quest Aircraft. According to BOCC Deputy Clerk Jessi Webster, both businesses received 100% exemptions for the first two years, then 75% in the third year and 50% in the final two years of the five-year agreements.
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