Ric Ebersole, chairman of the city Industrial Development Board, has sent a list of questions to city attorneys regarding tax breaks given businesses in the form of Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreements.
Mr. Ebersole also commented during a bond board meeting Tuesday that there were a couple of unusual sections in a PILOT for Chattanooga Coca-Cola Bottling, which is opening a major distribution center at the former Olan Mills site at Highway 153 and Shallowford Road.
No other member of the bond board inquired about the sections or made any comment, so the PILOT was approved.
Mr. Ebersole was told that the PILOT agreements are worked out through the Chamber of Commerce.
The chairman said he would delay a discussion on PILOTs until Chamber of Commerce officials could be present to take part.
Here is a memo Mr. Ebersole wrote to City Attorney Wade Hinton and Assistant City Attorney Phil Noblett on the PILOT issue:
I notice from the Agenda for the April 8, 2014 meeting that no one from the Chamber of Commerce is scheduled to brief the IDB members on the status of the various PILOT agreements that the IDB is party to despite the Board's repeated requests for this information.
I think the following items need to be available to the Board members:
1. How many PILOT agreements are now in force?
2. How many beneficiaries of these agreements are in compliance with the terms of the agreement especially as regards employment?
3. What reporting requirements are imposed on the beneficiaries of the PILOT agreements?
4. Who is responsible for collecting such reports?
5. What information do these reports contain, especially in terms of employment and additional investment?
6. What is the frequency of these reports, e.g. do all reports fall due on the same date, or does each PILOT have its own reporting date?
7. If your office has reports on the status of the PILOT agreements, please provide copies for at least the 5 most recent years
8. How much revenue has the City given up under these agreements in each of the past 10 years. In other words, what is the difference between how much the city would have collected in property taxes without the PILOT agreements and how much has been collected?
9. How much revenue has the City collected as a result of the increased employment and/or increased economic activity resulting from
the projects receiving PILOT agreements in each of the past 10 years and what was the methodology used to calculate that figure,
10. What objective criteria is available to the IDB to determine if the project receiving a PILOT represents a prudent use of taxpayer funds?
11. Is there an application form or fee for PILOTs?
12. What criteria are applicants asked to address?
13. Are applicants asked to sign an affidavit stating that they would not do the project in Chattanooga if they did not get the PILOT?
14. Are there notes from meetings where these projects were discussed at the Chamber and with the City and County Mayors?
15. Are documents regarding public tax incentives and housed at the Chamber considered “public records”?
I expect that other IDB members will have additional questions and concerns and I would urge them to bring these to the attention of the Board. If the Board is so inclined, I can put this in the form a Resolution to make the request "official."