Critics get first look at PILOT study - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Critics get first look at PILOT study

It's all in black and white. A comprehensive study on the PILOT program. The Memphis City Council's PILOT Task Force took a look during its inaugural meeting Thursday.

"The report doesn't say that it's broke, messed up--it don't say that," says City Council Attorney Allan Wade. "It says that it needs improvements and tightening."

That's what critics of the program have said all along.

"I know that we need PILOTs, but I want to be able to justify any PILOT that's granted," said Councilwoman Barbara Swearengen-Holt.

PILOTs, or "Payments In Lieu Of Taxes" are basically incentives given to companies to locate here and are often worth millions.

But some say the program has gotten "off track."

For instance, a company can come to town, take advantage of a 15-year tax break, and then hit the road.

"And so if the taxpayers are going to underwrite new industry coming in, we ought to do it with a purpose in mind rather than giving it to anybody that comes forward," said Wade.

Some want to make sure those receiving tax breaks have growth potential, create well-paying jobs, and even target underprivileged areas.

"We need better information, a better reporting policy, better policing," said Councilman Scott McCormick. "We'll create the PILOT police."

It's a job members of this task force believe will take the better part of the next six months. It is status-quo until the task force comes up with a recommendation for the full council.

Any PILOTs currently under review will not be affected.

As Action News 5 reported, The Shelby County Commission may tackle PILOTs as well.

Commissioner Julian Bolton has been the chief critic. He says the tax breaks will be discussed during a committee meeting on Monday. Bolton believes the commission should have the final say on any PILOT proposal.

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