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Commission split on economic incentive revisions

By KLINT SPILLER

kspiller@dailynews.net

Hays city commissioners voted Thursday to table a proposal to change the city's economic development policy until their next work session.

Commissioner Henry Schwaller IV voiced his concerns regarding the tax abatement matrix, which grants tax reductions and exemptions for 10 years to companies bringing capital investment or jobs to Hays.

Companies could qualify for 25-percent, 50-percent, 75-percent or 100-percent tax abatements under the policy. The 75-percent and 100-percent abatements could be reached by investing $1 million or $2 million or by creating 26 or 51 jobs, respectively.

Schwaller said the guidelines were not high enough to warrant such large tax abatements.

"These numbers are very low, and it raises some questions," Schwaller said.

"I just don't want to give away the store, so to speak, for such an amazing low threshold."

Initially, Schwaller made a motion to remove the 75-percent and 100-percent tax abatements from the policy with the understanding the city commission had the power to deviate from the policy when it sees fit. However, his motion failed 2-2, and commissioners decided it was better to table the policy to revisit the numbers.

"I like the structure that we have, but increasing the maximum and minimum amount of dollars, I think that is worth taking a look at," said Commissioner Troy Hickman.

The new economic policy also creates a high-tech business definition, an option for the commission to deviate from the policy, community improvement district renewal and the option for commissioners to grant sales tax exemptions for industrial revenue bonds on a case-by-case basis.

In other business, the city commission:

* Accepted the low bid of $171,495 from Berkshire-Hathaway for workers' compensation insurance coverage.

* Approved the cereal-malt beverage license application for Sake2Me Sushi Rolls.

* Confirmed the mayoral appointment of Schwaller to the Public Wholesale Water Supply District No. 15 Board.

* Commissioner Kent Steward was absent.