EnergyTaxes & SpendingEight Applicants Promise 19 Total Jobs in Tax Abatement Program Set to Expire in 2022

Across the eight applications, companies have collectively requested over $1 billion in property tax abatements while none meet minimum job creation requirements.
July 19, 2021
https://thetexan.news/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/Solar-Panels-Chapter-313-1280x853.jpg
In the time since the Texas legislature concluded the 87th regular session without renewing a tax code provision that allows school districts to give property tax abatements to businesses that build operations in their area, eight applications have been registered that do not meet the minimum job creation threshold.

Combined, the eight awards, if approved, are worth $1.094 billion in valuation reductions in the first year of establishment. The first three companies — Tierra Blanco Solar, Excel Advantage Services, and Millers Branch Solar — each commit to creating one or two permanent jobs.

If an application does not meet the minimum job creation criteria — 25 in non-rural districts and 10 in rural districts — it must have that requirement waived by the school district.

Of those three, only the Excel Advantage Services application was filed after the legislature adjourned sine die. But the other two were filed in the final days of the session and well after it became clear the program’s future was tenuous, at best.

Excel Advantage Services, in Childress ISD, is set to benefit from a $343 million abatement in their first years if approved.

The Texan Tumbler

Meanwhile, the two solar companies would each receive an abatement totaling roughly $80 million.

The fourth company, Sandow Lakes Ranch Solar, filed two applications with the comptroller — one with Rockdale ISD on June 21 and another with Thorndale ISD on June 14. The former promises two jobs created while the latter promises one and requests an abatement. The first application is worth $222 million and the second $45 million in the first year of limitation.

The estimated final approval for each agreement by the specific school boards varies. Tierra Blanco is set for January while approval for Excel Advantage Services will likely come at some point later this year and Millers Branch Solar is pegged at a December confirmation.

Both of Sandow Lakes Ranch Solar’s applications estimate final school board approval in October. 

Three other solar projects have also filed for abatements: High Chaparral Solar, Brush Country Solar, and Grasshopper Solar.

High Chaparral, in Danbury ISD, and Brush Country Solar, in Nixon-Smiley ISD, both promise to create five jobs. Grasshopper Solar, in Haskell ISD, commits to creating two jobs.

Both High Chaparral and Brush Country have estimated final approval periods in the later part of this year and Grasshopper Solar’s is projected for final approval in late August.

Two of the initial three solar companies — Millers Branch Solar and Sandow Lakes Ranch — applying for abatements share the same parent company, EDF Renewables.

EDF Renewables did not return a request for comment on their Chapter 313 applications.

Three other applications have been filed by companies that do meet the minimum job creation requirement from Leprino Foods, Maxter Healthcare, and Samsung Austin Semiconductor which, if approved, would collectively total $2.7 billion. Collectively, these companies promise to create 75 jobs.

Abatements from Chapter 313 agreements last a decade and then valuations revert back toward their mean.

During the legislative session, two Chapter 313-related pieces of legislation were offered. One, which failed in the House, would have dramatically expanded the program to allow already-existing businesses to receive abatements for renovations to their facilities — rather than strictly new builds.

The other was a short two-year renewal of the program as it currently stands. That option passed the House but stalled in the Senate at the deadline.

Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R-Brenham) said at the time, “It fell on the weight of itself. The body was very uncomfortable with the program as it is and we couldn’t find consensus on what the program needed to look like.”

A Houston Chronicle analysis pegged that a 10-year renewal of the program would cost $10.8 billion, $211,600 per job created.

Part of the reason the effort to renew the program failed was that a bipartisan coalition formed in opposition — with two influential Texas think tanks, the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation and progressive Every Texan, leading the charge.

Much like localities did in 2019 before new property tax limitations became effective, school districts and companies alike will likely look to cement Chapter 313 agreements before it sunsets at the end of 2022.

###

Disclosure: Unlike almost every other media outlet, The Texan is not beholden to any special interests, does not apply for any type of state or federal funding, and relies exclusively on its readers for financial support. If you’d like to become one of the people we’re financially accountable to, click here to subscribe.

Get “KB's Hot Take”

A free bi-weekly commentary on current events by Konni Burton.

Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.