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Voters to decide on business tax exemption
Aug. 26 referendum to decide fate of economic development incentive
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CLEARWATER – The Pinellas County Commission is asking permission from its citizens to create a program that would grant ad valorem tax exemptions to new businesses and existing businesses that want to expand.

Commissioners approved the referendum question June 3, which reads: “Shall the Board of County Commissioners of Pinellas County be authorized to grant pursuant to s.3, Art. VII of the State Constitution, property tax exemptions to new businesses and expansions of existing businesses that are expected to create new, full-time jobs in the county.”

Residents will decide yes or no Aug. 26. If approved, tax exemptions to qualified businesses would be granted per project by separate ordinances.

“The economic ad valorem tax exemption legislation allows Pinellas County to encourage job creation and capital investment by new and expanding businesses and be competitive in regional and statewide economic development efforts,” Economic Development Director Mike Meidel said in a memo to commissioners.

At least 38 counties, including Hillsborough and Sarasota, plus 20 municipalities, including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota, currently offer a tax exemption.

State statute allows counties and cities to grant exemptions to businesses for up to 10 years for economic development purposes. The exemption may be granted for up to 100 percent of the assessed value of eligible improvements to real and tangible property for qualifying businesses.

The statute defines eligible business types and requires minimum new job creation requirements, which include manufacturing or Qualified Target Industry, 10 new jobs; business with greater than 50 percent of sales revenue from out-of-state customers, 25 new jobs; and office, 50 jobs. The average wage must be above the average wage in the area.

Eligible companies would be required to submit a formal written application and each will be considered separately. If the exemption were approved, the business and the county would enter into a written agreement, which is required to include a status report.

State rules allow enough flexibility to allow tax exemption programs to be tailored to meet local economic development objectives.

According to a fact sheet from Pinellas County Economic Development, the exemptions would not increase taxes to county residents. The program does not exclude businesses from school taxes or other taxes levied by other authorities.

Businesses that do not meet performance requirements would have its exemption revoked in whole or in part. The program is targeted toward businesses that have the majority of customers outside Pinellas, so they would not be competing with the local market.

Only new buildings and new equipment built or purchased to accommodate new employees are eligible for an exemption. Land is not eligible.

For more information, visit or call 464-7332.

Election information

Deadline to register to vote in the Aug. 26 election is July 28. Early voting is scheduled from Aug. 16-24.

Mail ballots are tentatively scheduled to go out beginning July 9 to about 2,700 absent military and overseas voters who have requested ballots to date. State law requires ballots for absent military and overseas voters to be mailed at least 45 days prior to an election.

On July 22, mail ballots will go out to approximately 244,000 domestic voters. State law requires domestic ballots to be mailed between 35 and 28 days prior to an election.

Additional mail ballot requests will be fulfilled daily as received. To request a mail ballot, visit or call 464-VOTE (8683) or email

Florida has closed primary elections. Only voters registered with a political party may vote in that party’s primary. All registered voters may vote in nonpartisan races, including judicial and school board races, as well as for referendum questions.

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