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Lafayette County Supervisors OK tax exemption for Blauer

The Lafayette County Board of Supervisors voted Friday to grant a Free Port Warehouse Exemption for a local industry in hopes of keeping 150 jobs in Lafayette County and possibly creating more jobs in the future.

Representatives from Blauer Manufacturing Company, that also operates under SWM Company in the Max D. Hipp Lafayette County Industrial Park, asked the board to consider granting the company permission to apply for an exemption that would amount to about a $145,000 tax break for the year. The company is already receiving a five-year exemption from general ad valorem county taxes. The additional warehouse tax would come from what the company pays into county school taxes, which is about $175,000 a year.

However, Lafayette County Tax Assessor/Collector Sylvia Baker with an expected rise in property appraisals coming, the difference should offset the exemption and not cause a loss in the local school revenue.

Baker said there are 785 new parcels this year added to the tax rolls, along with 25 new subdivisions and condominium developments.

“This year is a reappraisal year and the state index changed and went up,” she said, adding that local property owners should expect to see an increase in their appraised property values.

Blauer has been located in Lafayette County since 1987 and employs about 150 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.

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.

While most of the supervisors expressed concerned about granting the exemption on Monday, the vote to approve it Friday was unanimous after Baker explained the rise in appraisals, which means more tax revenue being generated for the county.

Board President Jeff Busby said the board approved the exemption with Blauer agreeing to sit down with county leaders in the next three months to develop a long-term agreement to commit to staying in Lafayette County.

“Blauer could move to a number of other counties if we refused the exemption,” Busby said after the meeting. “That would have devastated 150 local families. We are going to sit down with them and come up with an agreement where we don’t ave to come back to the table like this every year.”

Busby said Blauer has shown commitment to Lafayette County and has continuously expanded its operations over the years, which has come with more jobs for local residents.

“A long-term agreement would not only give us and Blauer more security but the 150 employees as well, to know that their jobs will remain here in Lafayette County,” he said. “We are confident that Blauer will be a part of this community for many years.”

Jon Maynard, president and CEO of the Oxford-Lafayette County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Foundation, said he was proud of the supervisors for their vote Friday.

“With the offsetting growth in Lafayette County, we can afford this to keep 150 jobs and grow in the future,” he said. “The board wants to make sure we attract and keep companies that provide quality jobs, that pay well. It was a tough decision, but the board is looking at protecting 150 jobs and growing more jobs in the future.”