School board vote makes Victoria 'triple freeport' community

March 22, 2012 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated March 22, 2012 at 10:23 p.m.

Victoria can now market itself as a "triple freeport" community.

The Victoria school board voted at its regular meeting Thursday to exempt companies from paying taxes on freeport goods, which come into and leave the state within 175 days.

Dale Fowler, president of Victoria Economic Development Corp., said the exemptions should be an incentive for manufacturing companies and more jobs to come to Victoria.

The school board unanimously agreed.

"What we're doing is creating the future by giving this up," Bernard Klimist, board vice president said. The VEDC "will be able to bring businesses that will be taxed for being here with employees who will be paying taxes."

The city and county recently voted to pass the freeport tax exemption, too.

Moak, Casey and Associates, a law firm specializing in education issues, estimated the district could lose about $812,698 in taxes on freeport goods this year. But companies that will most benefit from the exemption - Invista, Berry Plastics, Valerus Compression Services and Dragon Rig Sales and Service - have agreed to pay the first year of freeport taxes to cover any of the school's lost revenue. If this year's taxes, which are due April 30, don't end up accounting completely for VISD's lost revenue, Caterpillar has also agreed to make up the difference.

"It certainly takes no skin off our nose in any way, shape or form," board President Tami Keeling said after thanking the companies for signing the no-harm contracts.

After the first year of the exemption, the tax base will be factored into school finance calculations, and any otherwise lost revenue would be compensated by the state.

"And certainly with Caterpillar coming down the line, you're not going to have a loss anyway, in my opinion," said VISD's lawyer, Clay Cain.

The board's vote reverses a 1989 school board decision to tax freeport goods. That was the year the exemption was added as a state constitutional amendment to encourage economic growth.

The district cannot return the tax cut in the future.

Bloomington's school board also passed the freeport tax exemption, though there are no businesses with freeport goods in its jurisdiction.

Before the vote, the board heard an update from Jess Butler, who is a consultant with the district's superintendent search firm, BWP and Associates.

The firm is creating a superintendent profile based on input from school employees, community organizations and members of the public.

Butler said some candidates already have applied.

"I think you already know the leader you have in mind you're looking for, but when you get input, you start to see trends," Butler said.

So far, the most desired qualities include someone with a strong financial background, high ethical standards and knowledge of an effective school management system like the one Superintendent Bob Moore implemented when he was hired six years ago.

Moore announced in February he would not renew his contract because of health concerns.



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