Commissioner speaks out about PILOT program - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Commissioner speaks out about PILOT program

Number One Beale is currently an empty lot. But a gleaming tower will eventually take its place, thanks in part to a 20-year tax break. They're called PILOTs, which stand for "Payments In Lieu Of Taxes."

"Much of what you see in downtown Memphis could not have taken place without the incentives the PILOT program represents," says Center City Commission CEO Jeff Sanford.

But critics like Shelby County Commissioner Julian Bolton say freezing taxes for big companies and developers has gotten out of control.

"And it's turned into a $50 million plus per year boondoggle," says Bolton.

Bolton is working to reign-in the program. He says a discussion is planned for later this week. Bolton would like the entire county commission to have the final say over every PILOT proposal.

"It's embarrassing to me as a commissioner that we would have this bleeding of tax dollars with no control, and I'm calling for an end to that kind of unaccountability," says Bolton.

But Sanford says the commission already has some oversight by approving the boards which make the decisions. Those include the Industrial Development Board and the Center City Revenue Finance Commission.

"So they do have a say on who sits in judgment of the PILOT program," says Sanford.

But Bolton believes those accountable to tax-payers should be the ones controlling their purse strings.

Giving the county commission more control might be just the beginning. Bolton also wants to investigate any legal power the county might have to rescind corporate tax breaks that have already been passed.

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