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City to discuss tax increment program

VIDALIA — Vidalia is looking to attract new businesses with taxes they’ll have to pay.

As counterintuitive as that statement may seem, Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said the city’s proposed tax increment funding program (TIF) can do just that.

The city will have a public hearing about two proposed TIF districts at the August meeting of the board of aldermen.

“We don’t have a major interstate, we don’t have major rail on our side of the river, and we have to look at programs we can utilize to offset those negatives and make them positives,” Copeland said.

“This program has been successful in other areas. In Denham Springs, it brought the Bass Pro Shop and created hundreds of jobs and generated who knows how much sales tax.”

Under the TIF program, when businesses are recruited to an area, a municipality can provide certain infrastructure for the project, be it utilities or other necessary development such as a parking lot. The cost of the infrastructure is later paid back to the city by taxes generated within a designated TIF district.

That’s what the Aug. 12 hearing will address, the city’s designation of two plots of land as TIF districts and the ability of those districts — once created — to levy taxes.

The two proposed TIF districts are seven acres on the Vidalia Riverfront and 33-acres on U.S. 84 across from Walmart.

Once a developer has applied for the TIF program through the state, he or she can present the city with a specific infrastructure plan for what they will need, Concordia Economic Development Executive Director Heather Malone said.

“If I choose to receive services in those TIF districts, my ad valorem tax would be increased and my sales taxes would possibly be increased, but I would get the benefit of public infrastructure,” Malone said. “Once those bonds are paid off, those additional taxes would go away.”

The city recently leased property within the proposed Riverfront district to the Desai Group, which plans to build a TownPlace Suites hotel there. Malone said a developer is considering locating on the 33-acre plot, but said she could not discuss it further at this point.

Copeland emphasized that the TIF districts would not affect the taxes of any current Vidalia resident or business. No residents currently live in the two districts.

“The City of Vidalia, as far as infrastructure is concerned, will implement the infrastructure, but it will be paid back and won’t cost the city anything, and it won’t cost the city future money,” Copeland said.

“It will not cost the existing taxpayer of Vidalia any money. Our tax rate will remain at 3.31 mills, same as it always has been.”