Hattiesburg tax break aims at downtown investment

HATTIESBURG, MS (AP) - The Hattiesburg City Council has given prospective developers another incentive to invest in dilapidated downtown properties.

During its final meeting of the year, the council changed guidelines for tax exemptions in Hattiesburg's Historic Preservation and Central Business districts, The Hattiesburg American reported.

Developers can now get a tax exemption for the entire increase in property value when an owner makes more than $2.5 million worth of improvements or renovations to commercial structures, according to values decided by the Forrest County tax assessor.

Exemptions previously were limited to half the value of the improvements or half the actual increase in value - whichever was less.

"We're not losing any tax revenue; we've set the bar pretty high," said Councilman Dave Ware, who proposed the changes.

But, he said, it might promote projects that otherwise would go undone. Councilwoman Deborah Denard Delgado said extending the resolution into her district could be the bait she needs to get developers to redevelop rundown areas.

"We are right on the edge of downtown Hattiesburg," Delgado said. "Any development out in East Hattiesburg would only enhance the downtown area."

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