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Blauer tax exemption could cost county schools $145,000

A local uniform manufacturing company is hoping to expand its operations in Lafayette County but says it needs another tax exemption to afford additional growth.

However, if the request is granted by the Lafayette County Board of Supervisors, county schools could see a $145,000 cut in their budgets.

Blauer Manufacturing Company, which also operates under the name SWM Company, has been located in the Max D. Hill Lafayette County Industrial Park since 1987 and employs 148 people. The company is already receiving a five-year exemption from general ad valorem county taxes, but continues to pay school taxes that total about $175,000 a year.

On Monday, during the supervisor’s regular meeting, Plant Manager Elvis Cook said the Blauer Company is now seeking a Free Port Warehouse Tax Exemption on all the products it ships out of Mississippi, which would amount to about a $145,000 tax break from what the company currently pays into the school tax.

State law allows exemption

Mississippi law allows eligible warehouses, public or private, a license to operate as a free port warehouse and be exempted from all ad valorem taxes on personal property shipped out of state. In 2002, the state legislature granted local governing authorities the power to approve or deny the exemption.

According to County Attorney David O’Donnell, only goods that are warehoused, and not manufactured or altered, and only warehoused and shipped out-of-state would be eligible for the exemption.

Cook said about 90 percent of the inventory that comes in and out of the Oxford plant is shipped out of Mississippi.

Cook said the company is hoping to expand the current building and told the supervisors that other counties have contacted Blauer offering them the exemption.

“I can’t speak for the owners, but it’s got them looking,” Cook said. “I want to stay right here, that’s why I’m fighting for this because I don’t want to move somewhere else. We have a great workforce right here.”

Cook said the exemption would help Blauer afford to expand the current building in the industrial park.

SWM has expanded in past

The original building was 50,000-square feet. After a tornado in 2009 destroyed the building, Blauer rebuilt adding an additional 25,000-square feet. Another 25,000-square foot addition was added about four years ago.

However, the supervisors were concerned about granting another tax credit that would affect county schools.

“You’re an asset to this community,” Supervisor Chad McLarty told Cook. “But we’re in a hard situation. You’re getting an ad valor em exemption already. Taking $145,000 from a struggling school district is something I don’t think I could vote for.”

Blauer’s five-year ad valorem exemption is up next year, but they can apply to extend the exemption.

Cook said the deadline to apply for the Free Port Warehouse Exemption is March 31.

“I don’t think this is something we can decide after a 20-minute conversation,” said Supervisor David Rikard.

The supervisors voted to table the request Monday and will review options over the next several days before reconsidering the request during a recessed meeting at 8 a.m. Friday at the Lafayette County Chancery Building.