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Businesses get millions in property tax breaks

April 27, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Businesses that have expanded or created jobs in Washington County have shared more than $1 million a year in property tax breaks since at least fiscal year 2001, according to information provided by the county.

Washington County offers tax credits for up to 10 years as incentives to businesses to move to or to expand and create jobs in state-designated areas known as enterprise zones.

The state reimburses the county for half of the credits issued.

There are three enterprise zones - The Hagers- town/Washington County, Hancock and the Hagerstown Regional Airport zones, said Sonja Hoover fiscal/research specialist for the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission.

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The tax credits allow the county to remain competitive with Pennsylvania and West Virginia in landing new businesses and have been a factor in enticing companies to come here, Hoover said.

"Some deals were not going to be done unless we had that program," Hoover said.

The enterprise zones make up about 4,200 acres in the county, according to the EDC's Web site.

To be designated by the state as an enterprise zone, an area must have a high unemployment rate, decreasing population and low wages, EDC officials have said.

A former enterprise zone, known as the Interstate 81 Enterprise Zone, expired a few years ago, but companies located in that former zone will receive the credits for the remainder of their 10-year terms, according to county information.

The commissioners authorized a little more than $1 million in tax credits to 54 businesses for the current fiscal year.

The state will reimburse about $507,000 of that amount.

In fiscal year 2003, the county issued $1.17 million in credits and was reimbursed $589,351. It issued $1.3 million in credits in fiscal year 2002 and was reimbursed $652,334 and issued $1.28 million in fiscal year 2001 and received $643,511, according to county information.

Businesses in Hagerstown also receive tax credits from the city.

In addition, Hoover said the companies in the enterprise zones receive income tax credits from the state based on the number of jobs created,.

The state income tax credits are $1,000 for every new job a new business creates.

If, for example, a new business created 100 jobs and employees stayed in those jobs for six months, the company would be reimbursed $100,000.

Companies also receive state income tax credits for hiring low-income employees, Hoover said.

Eighteen businesses in the former Interstate 81 Enterprise Zone received $863,593 in tax credits in 2003-04, including $212,240 to Staples of MD LLC and $133,765 in credits to First Data.

In that same year, 24 businesses in the Hagerstown/ Washington County Enterprise Zone received $121,993 in tax credits. That amount includes $19,803 to Phoenix Color Corp. and $16,378 to Noland Properties Inc.

Five companies in the Hagerstown Regional Airport Enterprise Zone received $28,630 in tax breaks, including $25,974 to Fulton Properties Inc.

Seven companies in the Hancock Enterprise Zone received $1,532 in tax credits. That amount includes $699 to G&N Realty Inc. and $572 to Three Trees Leasing & Development Inc.

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