Harrison Co. supervisors consider tax exemption requests

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Harrison County supervisors on Monday tabled several requests for tax breaks under a program designed to spur economic development along the waterfront. Supervisors raised some questions and concerns about how the tax abatement program should be applied.

One such development that qualifies for a seven-year tax exemption is The Blue Crab House, a project now under construction on the beach in Biloxi. The project has already been granted a tax exemption from the City of Biloxi. But a similar request of the county, sparked some discussion.

The Blue Crab House will create 40 to 50 new jobs and is expected to be open by Memorial Day weekend. A representative of the owner told supervisors the tax break provided a significant incentive for the project to proceed.

"Considering all the other costs of trying to build back on Highway 90 in Biloxi," Cliff Kirkland told the board.

Supervisors raised questions about exactly what the tax-abatement law will allow. For instance, can they grant just a portion of the tax exemption?

"How many jobs is it going to create?" asked Supervisor Connie Rockco, "And this has no reflection on you. How many jobs is it going to create? Is it going to be across the board, seven years for everybody? This way for everybody?"

The tax-break applies to just the new structure, not the land. And it doesn't exempt school taxes.

"We need to consider the fact we're giving a total county exemption. And maybe we need to look at proportional," said Supervisor Marlin Ladner.

"I don't disagree with that. But if that in fact is what we have done with others, whether we knew we were or not," added Supervisor William Martin.

After some debate, supervisors tabled the restaurant's tax exemption request, along with several others until questions can be cleared up about the tax break law.

One thing appears certain.

"The applications are numerous, which means the program is working. We are getting structures rebuilt, remodeled and added onto south of the railroad, which is what this was intended for to begin with," said Supervisor Kim Savant.

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