Commissioners Review Tax Abatement Policy, Approve Agricultural License Agreement

Hopkins County Commissioners Court renewed the county’s tax abatement policy. A resolution approving a 5-year updated mitigation action plan and an order authorizing the sale of fireworks for certain observances were also approved by the Commissioners Court during a special court session held Tuesday.

Hopkins County Commissioners Court

Tax Abatement Policy

Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Executive Director Roger Feagley explained that the legislature requires the tax abatement policy to be looked at and reviewed every 2 years. He asked the Commissioners Court to consider approving the same policy with one exception, with one exception. He recommended eliminating 7-year abatements,

“I’ve been doing this for 16-17 years and we’ve never done one for seven years,” Feagley told the Commissioners Court. “I recommend taking it out of the the chart.”

He referred to the chart listing the 5 and 10-year abatement schedules. A 5-year abatement would start with 100 percent of taxes abated, with the abatement reduced 20 percent each year. For individuals granted a 10-year abatement, the percent of tax abated reduces by 10 percent each year. He said if at some point in the future they ask for the 7-year tax investment schedule arrangements can be made to put it back in.

Tax investment schedule approved for businesses that meet the qualifications for tax abatements

Tax abatements may be granted to company operations engaged in manufacturing, distribution, warehousing, research and corporate offices. The City may also grant property tax abatements to non-profit industrial funds whose sole purpose is to provide economic development assistance to the overall community.

Abatements may be given on new investment in personal and/or real property which will have in the judgement of the Hopkins County Appraisal District an economic life (depreciation schedule) of at least 10 years, and which must total $500,000 or more. Personal property with a useful life of less than ten years is not eligible for tax abatement.

Each contract must directly tie creation of a specific number of jobs to the abatement. The company applying for abatement shall agree as a condition of receiving an abatement to create at least fifteen new full time jobs which shall continue for at least 10 years.

If the company fails to provide all the jobs stipulated in the contract, the abatement for that year will be reduced by the percentage of those jobs not created. However, that number cannot fall below 15. Each year, to be given credit for that year, each job must be in place and filled for longer than 8 months of the immediately preceding 12-month period.

In special situations where an industry must significantly retool to be competitive, abatements for job retention may be considered. However, it must be demonstrated that the nature of production and/or operations have changed in the industry whereby those jobs to be retained must be in significant danger of being lost to Sulphur Springs.

Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley and Sulphur Springs-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Roger Feagley

By Dec. 31 of each year, the company receiving the tax abatement must submit to the EDC certification of compliance with the terms of the abatement agreement, including a Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Insurance Quarterly Tax Report for the third quarter of the reporting year, reflecting the total employment, to show compliance with the employment requirement.

The Commissioners Court approved the tax abatement policy as recommended.

Mitigation Action Plan

Hopkins County Fire Marshal Andy Endsley said he and other county personnel have worked for the past year to get caught up updating the 5-year mitigation action plan. The county was behind in getting the plan updated before it expires. It has been completed with help from Ark-Tex Council of Governments personnel, sent through Texas Department of Emergency Management and now has to be approved by FEMA. Once approved by the court and the federal agency, the plan will be official.

The plan is used by the cities of Como, Cumby and Sulphur Springs as well as the county, and must jointly adopt and approve the 5-year updated mitigation action plan. The county judge and mayors for those municipalities also are charged with appointing a hazard mitigation coordinator to coordinate all aspects of the updated and revised mitigation action plan, including reviewing and maintenance of the plan for hte county and cities within it.

The plan is important when cities or the county apply for certain grants. If grants have been awarded and the plan is not approved, the entity receiving the award could be required to pay any money already distributed back, Newsom explained.

Endsley serves as the county’s hazardous mitigation coordinator. He said the plan is to begin working on the plan and updating it 1 1/2 year before the 5-year plan ends.

]The Commissioners Court approved a resolution recognizing the need for and approved the plan.

Ag Agreement

Precinct 2 Commissioner Greg Anglin reported he’d paid the $2 annual fixed license fee to the City of Sulphur Springs last week for use of land to procure sand to be mixed with oil and used on county roads. Sulphur Springs City Council approved the agricultural license agreement for the old Thermo mine property, now owned by the City of Sulphur Springs, at the regular January 2022 council meeting.

County Judge Robert Newsom noted that the use of the property for that purpose is a longstanding one for the county. The mine company allowed the county to use the property for the sand when it was in operation and use as a coal mine, and the city has continued to approve the agreement annually taking ownership of the mine.

“It allows our county roads to be better than they would be. By far, we would not be able to do what we do without that sand. We appreciate the City of Sulphur Springs working with us on this,” Newsom said.

Anglin then made a motion, which was seconded by Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker, to approve the agreement. The motion received full approval of the Commissioners Court.

Fireworks

The Commissioners Court also approved an order authorizing the sale of fireworks for Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day and Memorial Day 2022 in accordance with Section 2154.202(H) of the Occupations Code. New Year’s Day and Independence Day are automatic, according to Newsom.

TAC Updates

Rita Koches, former Van Zandt County judge, with Texas Association of Counties presented commissioners and the judge with bags of information and goodies. She noted the Newsom is a member of the TAC core legislative group, a group that the legislative department calls on to notify their legislators of a pending bill, whether it’s good or bad, etc.

Rita Koches hands out bags from Texas Association of Counties to Hopkins County Commissioners Court

Koches noted that nominations are now being accepted for the county best practices award and encouraged the Commissioners Court to submit recommendations if they know of any project in the county that is unique, different or able to be duplicated in another county. She said it’s a good time to let people know about things that are going on in the county.

TAC Boards, she noted, are made up of elected officials from around the state, such as the Commissioners Court.

The TAC Board that oversees the entire operation recently determined that it is in the best interest of counties to allow the TAC print shop to open to counties for banners and brochures and things of that nature.

TAC planning calendars are also available for those who have not already obtained them.

The TAC legal department since the close of the last Legislative session, has worked on having a page on the state website where each county’s statutes can be viewed. They are population bracketed, which could be a huge time saver, Koches said.

The packets she provided also include updated TAC contacts, including who to contact in the legal department.

“I will remind you TAC has a legal department. It has 5 or 6 attorneys waiting to take your questions at any time. Take advantage of that. Your county attorney and your district attorney advises you, but occasionally you just personally question about something in your particular department of division, it’s an opportunity to get an outside opinion maybe,” Koches said.

She said TAC risk management consultants can advise on safety and issues that are available in your county. HR consultants are there to help if, for example, a county needs to issue a letter or reprimand or termination, of just to talk things out sometimes.

“I do want to tell you that regardless what you hear about Travis County being shut down in stage whatever they are in today, TAC is open for business every day. We may be spread out a little bit more than we were in the past. They are open for the business to reach somebody. The consultants, the county relations officers are out on the roads calling on counties. Business is going on as usual,” Kotches said.

She too noted several conferences coming up that provide training opportunities for county officials to get required CEUs.

Koches planned to be in other county offices, visiting with other county officials throughout the day Tuesday.

Other Business

Farmers Electric Cooperative Inc.’s request to be allowed to construct electrical power distribution facilities across County Road 3536, north of County Road 3532 in Precinct 3 was approved along with the minutes for the Jan. 10 regular court meeting and work session, as part of the Jan. 18 consent agenda. Precinct 3 Commission Wade Bartley advised he’d reviewed the FEC request and recommended approval.

A full exemption for a racial profiling report for Precinct 2 Constable John Beadle was noted and entered into the record.

The Commissioners Court then at 9:25 a.m. entered into an executive session to discuss personnel, citing Government Code 551.0274. Newsom said there would be not action taken afterward regarding the personnel matter discussed.

Author: Faith Huffman

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