taxes on reopened refinery
with considerable reluctance, is about to grant Delaware City
Refinery Co. a $2 million tax break.
A majority of
Council members said at a finance committee meeting on Jan. 11,
that they will support an ordinance exempting the company that
is preparing to reopen the former Valero refinery this spring
from property taxes for the next five years. The vote originally
had been scheduled for that evening, but Council's semi-monthly
plenary session was postponed a week in anticipation of the
Smiley, co-chair of the committee, set the tone for the
discussion when he said he finds it "very difficult to give up
any county revenue" in light of continuing budget problems. But,
he added, he will vote in favor of the measure to fulfill county
government's share of the incentive package that state
government offered to attract a company to reopen the refinery
restoring jobs lost when Valero closed it.
Robert Weiner was
the only one participating in the discussion who did not commit
himself either way after asking if failure to enact the
ordinance would be a "deal-breaker." Alan Levin, secretary of
the state's economic development office, replied that it would
be a breach of faith. "This is part and parcel of the
arrangements we made" and the company has since "acted in good
faith" to uphold its part of the bargain, he said. "They are
ahead of schedule; they are moving forward," he added.
While the Council
members seemed most disturbed that county government was not
included in the discussion leading up to the agreement, they
were told that it was included on the plus side of the register
as possible recipient of a donation of up to 93 acres of land
the company owns in the vicinity of the plant which it could
decide to sell. Discussions in that regard are under way, Levin
Jea Street said he
objected to state government's assumption that the county would
support its efforts although it "turns a deaf ear" whenever
county government "needs some help." He said he will seek state
support for curbing gun violence in Wilmington.
David Tackett said
the job-creation aspects of the refinery deal are the paramount
reason for supporting the tax incentive. "I wouldn't have done
it 10 years ago, [but] given the conditions we have today, ...
any opportunity to put people back to work [should be taken],"
director of the county Office of Redevelopment, said the
refinery now has 213 full-time employees and more than 1,000
contract workers. When it gets into full operation later in the
year, it will employ 474 workers and about 220 contractors.
Two-thirds of the current workforce are Delawareans, a large
majority of whom live in New Castle County, he said.
The fiscal note
attached to the ordinance says the county stands to forgo
$407,678 in annual property tax, based on the present rate. It
received $761,362 in real estate transfer tax from the sale of
the property last year.
Refinery Co. is a unit of P.B.F. Energy Partners, itself a joint
venture of Blackstone Group and First Reserve Corp.
Although a separate
matter, a similar ordinance granting a five year property-tax
exemption to Fisker Automotive, which is reopening the former
General Motors plant on Boxwood Road, has been pending in
Council since November, 2009. Delaforum could not
immediately learn why a vote on that measure has been delayed.