Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Changes Promised for Memphis PILOT Program

Posted By on Tue, Aug 5, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Leaders of the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County (EDGE) are working on revisions to the incentive program it uses to help lure companies to locate or expand in the city and county.

  • Dulberger
EDGE leaders will soon bring those revisions to the Memphis City Council for approval in the next six to eight weeks, according to EDGE president and CEO Reid Dulberger.

The news comes as Dulberger and his team gave an overview of EDGE’s payment in lieu of taxes (PILOT) program to the council Tuesday. The program became the target of the Memphis Fire Fighters Association’s argument against the cuts of city employee and retiree healthcare benefits and proposals to change the city’s pension plan.

MFFA president Thomas Malone said the "corporate welfare" given in PILOTs could more than pay for the proposed cuts to the city's employee benefits. His group commissioned a study on PILOTS here by the National Public Pension Coalition. The study said many PILOTs approved in Memphis are not meeting job creation, wage, or capital investment goals.

Dulberger EDGE has approved 27 PILOTs in its three years. Those PILOTs have abated about $229 million in taxes but have generated about $568 million in revenues for Memphis and Shelby County.

“Some believe these abatements amount at a cost,” Dulberger told the council’s economic development committee. "We don’t look at it as a cost. If you don’t have the PILOTs, then you don’t have the abatements. You can’t lose what you don’t have.”

Dulberger likened the PILOT abatements to having to pay higher taxes on lottery winnings.

“I may have saved a lot of federal and state tax dollars by not winning the lottery,” he said, “but I’d be better off winning the lottery."

No details on possible changes to the program were available Tuesday.

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