Brunswick resumes tax incentive talks with MRRA
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council voted unanimously Monday night to resume discussions on a possible tax increment financing agreement with the authority redeveloping the former naval air station, now known as Brunswick Landing.
The move was encouraging to officials at the Midcoast Regional Redevelopment Authority, who said the state financing tool could provide more incentives for business growth at the former base.
"We are really looking forward to re-engaging the town on this issue and developing a plan that is mutually beneficial to both parties," Steve Levesque, MRRA's executive director, said.
Councilor John Richardson, one of two councilors appointed to lead the discussions, said there were two factors that led to the council decision: the LePage administration's withdrawal of a bill that town officials said would have threatened local control of redevelopment efforts at Brunswick Landing, and the realization that MRRA's board had not taken a position in support of the legislation.
The bill would have clarified tax exemptions for aviation companies at municipal airports. But Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner George Gervais, who sits on the MRRA board, admitted the legislation was triggered by a tax dispute between the town and MRRA over Kestrel Aeroworks at Brunswick Landing. Local officials had characterized the proposed legislation as an effort by the state to meddle in local affairs.
With the bill out of the pictgure, the tax dispute has taken a "less adversarial route," according to officials on both sides.
MRRA had originally planned to take legal action against the town to contest Kestrel's tax bill, but its board has instead decided to seek a tax abatement.
"That just preserves our position" that Kestrel is exempt from property taxes, Levesque said.
In the meantime, the town and MRRA will prepare to discuss a TIF agreement again. Town Manger Gary Brown last September estimated it would rebate $12 million in tax revenue from Brunswick Landing to MRRA over the next 30 years.
Richardson, who is a former DECD commissioner, said the council's decision to renew TIF discussions "doesn't guarantee any certain outcome, but it does open the door for future discussion."
"There's much to talk about because the dynamics have changed dramatically with the budget cuts ... ," he said. "We have to make sure this process makes sense at this time. ... I do think that's possible as long as there's not outside interference from the state or administration."
The council suspended TIF negotiations with MRRA last September. Brown at the time cited uncertainty about possible legislation that could change TIF laws to the town's disadvantage, along with the town's financial situation.
Councilor Ben Tucker said the LePage administration's decision to not consider a local officials as a MRRA board member also fueled the decision.
Because the TIF with MRRA was off the table at the time, Town Council last December agreed to a TIF specifically for Molnlycke Manufacturing US, which will provide Brunswick Landing with nearly $3 million in property tax rebates over a 20-year period. The deal will allow the town to capture about $16.6 million in new tax revenue from Molnlycke for its own infrastructure improvements.
Levesque said Molnlycke is hiring to fill more than 30 jobs and is scheduled to begin operations within the next month or two.