A pair of companies investing and adding new jobs in Chattanooga drew property tax breaks Friday, but questions were raised about the need for the inducements and the transparency of negotiations over them.
Woodbridge Chattanooga Formed Plastics is creating about 70 full-time jobs in the city and investing $8.5 million. Also, it may grow that number by another 130 jobs and bolster investment by an additional $8 million, officials said.
In addition, WNA American Plastics Industries is adding 53 jobs and investing $15 million, according to a city Industrial Development Board resolution.
J.Ed. Marston, vice president of marketing for the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, said the tax breaks for Woodbridge will save the company about $260,000 over four years. For WNA, the breaks will save the business $350,000 over the same time period, he said.
The payment-in-lieu of taxes agreements were approved by the city bond board.
But local citizen Helen Burns Sharp questioned how fully such tax incentives are publicly vetted. Also, she said that similar tax breaks at times appear to be a reward to a company rather than an inducement for businesses to invest and add jobs.
"Was this really necessary?" she asked. "I do think we have a real problem in Chattanooga about the way these things are vetted."
She said the Chamber determines the tax break through a set of criteria, but its meetings aren't public.
"We're talking about tax dollars," Sharp said. "We know the private benefit. But what's the public benefit?"
She added that the special IDB meeting dates and times aren't posted on the city's website.
Ric Ebersole, the IDB chairman, said he's sympathetic about why special meeting notices aren't on the website.
Board attorney Phil Noblett said it's a website issue and attempts will made to get the meetings on the site.
Officials said the two tax break agreements approved by the IDB on Friday were earlier approved by the Chattanooga City Council.
Contact Mike Pare at email@example.com or 423-757-6318.