Panama City loses its tax incentive tool to attract new businesses
PANAMA CITY – Residents of Panama City on Tuesday rejected a proposed property tax exemption that would seek to boost job creation at the local level.
The referendum, which was also on Lynn Haven’s ballot, would provide an incentive to secure new and expanding businesses in the form of land and property tax exemptions for a period of up to 10 years, with a minimum requirement creation of 10 jobs.
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Highlighting the low voter turnout, Bay Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin said she did not think the decision reflected the views of the majority of people in Panama City.
“Obviously, this is very disappointing because it is a key tool used to support the business community,” she said Wednesday morning. “I really think the low voter turnout was not in our favor. I don’t see that is the opinion of the majority of people who live in Panama.”
In total, about 19% of the 127,000 registered voters participated in the municipal elections on Tuesday.
The exemption has been available for more than 30 years and is nothing new, she said, noting that the referendum takes place every 10 years and that an overwhelming majority voted in favor of the exemption when ‘it appeared on the ballot as a county referendum.
Lynn Haven voters were also instructed on Tuesday to choose to maintain the exemption, to which 62.49% of 3,426 voters answered yes. However, the slight majority – 51.59% – of Panama City’s 4,739 voters decided to continue without this tool.
Hardin said she believes the next time the referendum is offered in Panama, the answer will be different.
“We will work hard to get this on the ballot in the future. We will do a better job educating residents, ”she said.
She added that Tuesday’s results “will not hamper our recruitment and marketing efforts” and that Bay EDA will continue to attract businesses to the region.
“All of our properties are within our county limits. So we still have County and Lynn Haven approval, ”she concluded.