Photo by: Maryann Bates: L-R; Stephen Adams, Dr. Curtis Jones, Robby Fountain, Ron Collier
During a swearing-in ceremony at the Bibb County Board of Education on Dec. 17, the school board was presented with a 1.2-million-dollar check by the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, which represents their share of the Payment in Lou of Taxes (PILOT) payment for 2020. The School Board was second to receive their check, as a week prior Mayor Robert Reichert and the County Commissioners were presented with their PILOT payment during a ZOOM meeting held on Dec. 8. Robby Fountain Jr., Chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, presented Reichert and the Commissioners with the check virtually, with Fountain handing the check offscreen and Reichert pretending to grab it from out of frame. Both checks are return payments for funds previous lent to the Industrial Authority under the PILOT program.
The P.I.L.O.T. program, or Payment in Lieu of Taxes, is a tax incentive designed to restructure the tax burden for companies interested in relocating or expanding to the Macon-Bibb area. Fountain says the program has been a great tool for “enticing new industry into Macon-Bibb”. So far, the program had attracted the likes of Amazon, Irving Tissue, Kumho Tire, Mr. Chips, Freudenberg, and Graphic Packaging International to name a few.
The basic concept behind the program is that companies granted PILOTS are essentially receiving discounts on their property taxes in early years, in exchange for agreeing to locate to the area for a guaranteed number of years, bringing with them jobs and investment. It’s important to keep in mind that these companies are often taking over undeveloped property that had previously been bringing in little tax revenue for the county. So, the new revenue amounts to millions of dollars for the city and county that otherwise wouldn’t exist.
During the Commissioners’ Zoom meeting, Reichert explained that the check represents their portion of the PILOT payments and that these payments are expected to ramp up over time. Since the program was adopted, the Board of Commissioners has received checks from the Industrial Authority in the amount of $483,000 in 2018, $950,000 in 2019 and now $1.2 million in 2020; a 29% increase over 2019. By the end of the pilot schedule, these businesses will be paying as much in PILOT payments as they would in ad valorem taxes.
Reichert thanked Chairman Fountain and said that the PILOT program is “absolutely fantastic”. Elaine Lucas, Commissioner for District 3, echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying that she’s “absolutely thrilled” with the Industrial Authority and is thankful for all the business the PILOT program has brought to her district.