City leaders approve tax exemption ballot language

Matt Algarin

With a unanimous vote Monday night, city leaders approved, on first reading, ballot language for the proposed economic development ad valorem tax exemption (EDATE).

“EDATE is important for Destin because it could attract more diverse businesses that provide full-time jobs paying higher than the average annual Okaloosa County wage," Development Manager Steve Schmidt said. "It also gives the city an additional tool to entice annexation, expanding the tax base and potentially allowing expansion of existing services without burdening current citizens and owners.”

Come August, Destin's residents will have the opportunity to decide whether or not the city will be able to offer new and expanding businesses tax breaks via a referendum.

The title on the ballot will read "A vote allowing temporary economic development property tax exemptions to businesses that create new jobs." The description will ask: "In order to create new jobs, shall the Destin City Council be authorized to grant, pursuant to s.3, Art. VII of the State Constitution, temporary economic development property tax exemptions to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses that will create new, full time jobs in the City?"

Residents will cast a vote for either "Yes; Authority to grant exemptions" or "No; Against authority to grant exemptions."

A potential business must fill out an application, which is reviewed on a case-by-case basis that looks at the businesses economic impact, diversification, and job creation in accordance with the city’s designated target industries and state statutes.

The city’s targeted industries are: professional, scientific and technology services, engineering, financial, information technology and businesses services, light manufacturing, and education, life and health sciences.

The tax exemption can range from 1-100 percent for a duration of 1-10 years.

The referendum will be on the August 26 primary election ballot. The ballot language must be approved on second reading before it can be officially adopted.