NEWBERRY – They City of Newberry may be offering property tax incentives for properties within the City’s historic district. At the Nov. 8 Newberry City Commission meeting, Assistant City Manager Dallas Lee sought direction from the Commission about a possible Historic Property Tax Incentive Program. The issue had previously been introduced during budget discussions.

Newberry is currently working to amend the historic district, but Lee presented a map of the current district for discussion purposes and provided an overview of a historic property tax incentive program and gave examples of how the program might work.

One option would be for the City to allow exemptions on the increase in value of approved improvements on a qualified historic property and could authorize up to 100 percent of the improved value of the tax increase for up to 10 years.

“Properties must be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, be a contributing building in a National Register District or be designated under a local ordinance,” Lee said.

All of the properties within the current historic district would qualify. Renovation/rehabilitation work must be in accordance to federal guidelines and must be reviewed by the local preservation office or Division of Historic Resources. Property owners who are granted an exemption must enter into a covenant with the Florida Department of State, agreeing to maintain the architectural and historical integrity of the building.

The exemption would only apply to the amount of money spent on qualifying improvements resulting in an increase in assessed value.

Lee provided an example saying, “$25,000 in approved improvements times the approximate city millage rate of 0.006 equals $150 per year. If the City allowed an exemption for a period of up to 10 years, this would amount to a tax savings of $1,500 over that 10-year period.”

Lee added that Alachua County currently offers an exemption on the county’s taxes, which applies within the city.

The incentives are designed to encourage people to improve their properties in the downtown historic district. However, Lee said the program isn’t designed for small improvements like replacing the windows in a home and obtaining a $5 a year reduction in a property owner’s taxes.

Not all commissioners are on board with the idea as Commissioner Tim Marden said he wouldn’t be interested unless a threshold for a minimum amount of work was set that would make it worth the trouble of having staff implement the program.

The Commission didn’t discuss the length of time the tax credit would be allowed, although there was a brief mention that the Commission could pass an ordinance allowing a 50 percent exemption as opposed to a 100 percent, which is allowed by statute.

No formal action was taken on the matter, but Lee will develop a dollar threshold and present to the Commission at a future date.

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