COLUMBIA — Columbia-based construction technology and rental company EquipmentShare presented its proposal to the Columbia Public Schools Finance Committee for a 75% reduction on its property taxes to build a $120 million headquarters expansion.

The proposal would bring $2.38 million in tax revenue to various Boone County taxing districts. Over $2.02 million would go to CPS, the primary beneficiary of Boone County property taxes.

"All that additional revenue and additional jobs and additional community impact is also really important to CPS because we're getting revenue in other ways," Heather McArthur, Chief Financial Officer for CPS, said.

EquipmentShare partnered with Regional Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) to file for Chapter 100 industrial development bonds through Boone County. To apply for Chapter 100 bonds in Columbia, a company must invest at least $100 million in a new facility to receive the 75% abatement that EquipmentShare seeks.

The company estimates its project will cost $120 million, creating an estimated 111 jobs and cementing the Columbia headquarters as its flagship corporate office. At least 100 of those jobs must pay at least 110% higher than the average Boone County hourly wage of $23.94, which amounts to $49,791 in annual salary terms.

"For those of you that have been to St. Louis or Kansas City and have seen the Centene or Cerner buildings, we're talking about that kind of building," Brian Treece, EquipmentShare vice president of Strategy and Development, said while leading the presentation. "Something that we can all be proud of and that frankly sends a clear message that Columbia's a great place to work and start a business and succeed in business."

According to the presentation, EquipmentShare currently employs 417 people at its Columbia corporate office, a significant chunk of its 3500 employees at branches nationwide. The company hopes the new building will not only help retain those employees, but also create up to 100 high-wage, high-skill robotics, engineering and analytics jobs within a research and development center. That's in addition to various other jobs created within other company sectors, such as customer service, information technology, legal, marketing and fleet management services.

"A lot of the this incentive program specifically wants to try and pull more jobs into Columbia," McArthur said. "So then if we're pulling more people into Columbia, we're getting more people jobs, that's more kids in our school district. Also, it's also more people building houses, more people spending money in our community, and that none of that is factored in to the actual number calculation of how much money we're gonna get in the next 10 years, just from EquipmentShare's personal property."

The company also plans to offer a partnership with CPS if the proposal is approved. That partnership includes on-site field trips, opportunities for curriculum expansions in diesel mechanics and robotics through the EquipmentShare's hopeful Career Center, and potential software engineering apprenticeships, creating career pipelines for students to accept full-time positions with the company. 

"It's a great opportunity for students to be able to do internships in some of those different areas like engineering and robotics," McArthur said. "It's great experience for any of our students to be able to partner with organizations like that to get that real world experience before they graduate high school."

CPS is considering the proposal as it prepares to enter a period of deficit spending after building up a 38% fund balance over the last few years. A recent decision in Blankenship v. Franklin County (2021) prevents Missouri school districts from levying a property tax rate higher than what voters approve.

CPS estimates the decision will remove $10 million in annual revenue for the district's budget moving forward, and the only way to recoup that revenue is to present a rate increase on an election ballot. CPS last introduced a ballot referendum raising property tax collection rates in 2016.

"80% of our budget, of course, comes from salaries and benefits," McArthur said. "And so it just really limits the amount that we're able to continue to put into salaries and benefits and increased compensation for not just our teachers, but all of our employees, our hourly employees, to try and continue to make competitive wages for all of our employees of the district. And we employ about 3000 total employees. So that's a significant impact."

But increasing property values gave CPS a $4 million surplus within its 2021-22 school year budget, which contributes to the fund balance that the district will utilize in the near future.

EquipmentShare's proposal must receive final approval from the Boone County Commission. The company plans to present its proposal to all taxing entities that would be affected. It will next share its presentation at the CPS school board meeting on Monday.

A REDI spokesperson said EquipmentShare aims to know the fate of its proposal by the end of the month. The company would be the seventh to receive Chapter 100 bonds from Boone County since 2005.

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