When voters head to local polling places Jan. 31 for Florida’s GOP primary, they’ll also be asked to weigh in on re-upping EDATE, or the Escambia County Ad Valorem Tax Exemption.
But what exactly is EDATE?
“When you grab someone off the street and say ‘EDATE,’ they may be thinking you’re talking about internet dating,” said Bruce Vredenburg. “And that’s not the case.”
As chairman of the New Jobs Now! political action committee—or, PAC—Vredenburg is doing his best to educate people about the EDATE issue.
“It’s about bringing new jobs,” he explained. “About creating and keeping jobs. About providing a future.”
EDATE is a framework through which a county may grant businesses moving to their area—or expanding in the area—a pass on property taxes. In Escambia County, businesses would still be required to pay taxes associated with the school district, Northwest Florida Water Management District and the city of Pensacola.
“It allows us to compete,” said Vredenburg. “It’s an economic development tool.”
EDATE first arrived on the scene in the early 1990s. It has been renewed every 10 years, with the programs current term ending in December 2012. If voters again renew EDATE, it will go until 2022.
Vredenburg said that when a company looks to relocate, they dispatch location scouts. Tax incentives are one of the aspects these scouts focus on.
“Ultimately, they’re going to meet with the economic development folks,” Vredenburg said. “If we don’t have anything to offer, we’re not going to be at the top of that list a majority of the time.”
When a company is moving to, or expanding in, the area applies for EDATE exemptions, county commissioners ultimately have the say on if—and to what degree—such exemptions will be granted. Officials may grant a business an exemption of up to 100 percent.
“Not everyone gets the same level of abatement,” Vredenburg said. “It’s not a zero-sum game where it’s all or nothing.”
If granted an EDATE exemption, a business will be responsible for paying the county ad valorem tax once its predetermined EDATE period has expired. The business may only apply for another EDATE exemption if it is expanding; and it may only receive the new exemption on the expansion.
“I feel if we educate people, we will get it passed we will retain this right,” Vredenburg said. “It’s really not a complex issue.”