County commission approves tax break for Mitsubishi, seeks accessibility improvements

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Williamson County Commission

Williamson, Inc. Chief Economic Development Officer Elizabeth McCreary presents the tax increment financing plan for Mitsubishi Motors to the county commission alongside company representatives.

The Williamson County Commission gathered for its final meeting of the year Tuesday, questioning whether they should begin to add a regular meeting in December next year due to the seven late-filed resolutions added to this month’s agenda. 

“Our county is growing to the certain point that we may need to consider adding (a December meeting),” Commission Chairman Tommy Little, District 5, said. “We had to have five special committee meetings, I think, to try to get these (late-filed resolutions) heard.” 

The commission approved several relatively routine resolutions, such as allowing 17 more special education teacher assistants for Williamson County Schools and amending the library and sheriff’s office budgets to accept donations. 

Mitsubishi tax break 

The commission also passed a tax increment financing (TIF) plan for Mitsubishi Motors, which is in the process of moving its headquarters from Orange County, California, to Williamson County. 

This plan will allow the company an annual tax break of just over $31,000 for the next decade due to its leased office space at the new mixed-use facility, McEwen Northside. As Mitsubishi will take up about 21% of the facility’s space, the company will be reimbursed for 21% of the property taxes of the facility, save the portion that goes towards education, which makes up roughly 68% of the tax rate. 

“Our incentives are only ever offered on brand new property, which means that we don’t take things off of the current tax rolls, and they are also never going to touch the taxes that are set aside for the schools,” Elizabeth McCreary, chief economic development officer for Williamson, Inc., said. 

McCreary explained this incentive, along with state incentives, helped to push Williamson County up on the list of places Mitsubishi was considering for relocation. 

“This was a competitive project,” she said. “They were looking at both Dallas and the option of staying in LA, and so it was important to us that we move forward with an incentive offer.” 

Mitsubishi is bringing about 200 jobs with its move with salaries in the $95,000 to $100,000 range, and 45 local positions have already been filled, according to Chief Human Resources Officer Angie O’Leary. 

The incentive was passed 19-2, opposed by District 2 Commissioner Judy Herbert and District 4 Commissioner Gregg Lawrence. 

Herbert said she never votes for incentive plans like this because she thinks it’s unfair to raise the taxes of her constituents when the county’s expenses increase while giving businesses a break. She said, even though Mitsubishi is bringing more jobs, people from other counties are coming into Williamson for work, so the county is not exactly lacking for jobs. 

“If we were back like we were 30 years ago, it would be worth it, but not now,” she said. “We’re providing jobs to people from Marshall County, Maury County, everywhere around. And I know these are really good jobs, but I don’t believe in giving it to them at this point, as well as we’re doing.” 

Lawrence, on the other hand, was skeptical that the education portion of taxes feeding into the rural debt service fund were not included in the reserved 68%, and though county representatives stated they were included, he wanted to further investigate before giving his approval. 

Reducing barriers for residents with disabilities 

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the board also received and adopted a self-evaluation and transition plan meant to “address accessibility barriers to pedestrian rights-of-way and public facilities.” 

The county now has an established grievance procedure for those who wish to file complaints about accessibility in public areas, appointing an ADA coordinator — Director of Risk Management Wayne Franklin. With this, the board also adopted a statement of non-discrimination. 

“Williamson County takes pride in ensuring that people with disabilities are able to take part in, and benefit from, the range of public programs, services, and activities offered by the Government,” a portion of it reads. 

The transition plan identifies current barriers for disabled persons and establishes a plan to remove them. According to the plan, the county is currently working on making its website more accessible and compatible with certain software, though certain portions of the site are beyond the county’s control. Along the same digital lines, the county is also looking into closed captioning and other accessibility solutions for its WC-TV channel. 

Signage in public facilities is continuing to be updated with braille and adjusted to appropriate sizes and heights. Finally, the county is also reviewing physical improvements needed in public facilities and around rights-of-way, such as sidewalks, curbs and ramps. 

The Williamson County Commission will not convene in December and is scheduled to meet again on Monday, Jan. 13, 2020 in the Williamson County Administrative Complex.

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