Lawrence school board, Douglas County Commission to consider tax breaks for First Management headquarters

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The Lawrence school board and Douglas County Commission will soon weigh whether to give First Management Inc. tax breaks to renovate a downtown building into its new corporate headquarters.

Doug Compton, owner of First Management and First Construction, seeks a 15-year, 65% property tax rebate via a Neighborhood Revitalization Area (NRA) incentive to redevelop the long-vacant downtown Borders building at 700 New Hampshire St. (See more coverage of the project at the links below.)

The city, county and school district each individually consider whether to participate in the incentives for their taxing jurisdictions. The Lawrence City Commission on Aug. 1 gave initial approval to the city’s part in the tax breaks.

The estimated cost to the school district for the NRA rebates is $212,706, according to agenda materials.

First Management also seeks Industrial Revenue Bonds for construction materials to be fully exempt from county sales tax. The estimated total cost to Douglas County is $230,731 — $5,883 in sales tax exemptions and $224,848 in NRA tax rebates, according to the agenda item.

The city’s Public Incentives Review Committee in June had recommended the Lawrence City Commission approve the sales tax incentives but deny an earlier request for a 90% NRA rebate. 

Douglas County Commission Chair Patrick Kelly also serves on the PIRC; he previously voted in favor of the IRB but opposed the 90% NRA tax rebate. School board Past President Shannon Kimball is now the Lawrence school board representative on the PIRC, but she joined recently and was not part of the committee when the members voted on this project.

Public Incentives Review Committee members meet on June 14, 2023. (Screenshot / City of Lawrence YouTube)

City commissioners voted 4-1 to approve the IRB to exempt the project from sales taxes, and 3-2 to approve the 15-year NRA tax rebate at 65%, after First Management updated its request. The estimated cost to the city for both incentives is $180,249.

City staff members will present the request at the school board meeting, set for 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 14 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive, and at the Douglas County Commission meeting, set for 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 16 at the historic courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St.

The school board on Monday will also consider approving its maximum budget for next year, which would increase property taxes. Read more about that at this link.

View the item on the school board’s agenda via BoardDocs at this link. View the county commission’s agenda item at this link.

The city ordinances on the tax breaks will return to the Lawrence City Commission for final consideration at a future meeting after the school board and county commission weigh in.

If approved, sales tax exemptions from the city, county and state, plus property tax breaks from the city, county and school district altogether are estimated at $680,759, according to the agenda item.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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