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United States : Collier County commissioners delay property tax vote impacting Jackson Laboratory proposal.

The Collier County Commission did not change the property tax rate this evening, opting instead to continue the debate over raising $130 million for Jackson Laboratory on Wednesday morning.

In the meantime, county staff are trying to determine if the county can raise part of the funding on its own by essentially loaning itself the money. Today was the county s self-imposed deadline to set its maximum millage rate. The legal deadline is Aug. 4.

Collier County commissioners have begun debate over a $130 million incentive plan for Maine-based Jackson Laboratory.

So far, commissioners do not seem eager to make a decision now to spend the money.Commission chairman Fred Coyle called for small increase in utility fees to raise the money. But he said he wants to hold off on decision to fund the project.

Though the state has pledged $130 million, no one is certain if all of that money will ultimately become available. The Legislature approved $50 million in Jackson Lab spending, but that money will become available only when additional federal stimulus money reaches Florida.

"The state funding hasn t even been solidified, so how can we make a decision on spending money if the state funds are not available?" Coyle said. "That would be sort of foolish, wouldn t it?"

Commissioner Tom Henning said the issue should be put on the November ballot.In my opinion, it s too much of a risk to vote to tax the people without their approval," he said.

Commission debate this afternoon follows nearly four hours of public comment on the issue.

A long list of supporters and opponents are now making their case to the Collier County Commission as they prepare to consider a $130 million cash incentive for Maine-based Jackson Laboratory.

For now, project boosters have made up the majority of the last two dozen speakers. A total of 109 people have asked to make comments to the commission.

Typical was this kind of response from the business community: "If we've learned anything about the recession it's that the long talked of need for economic diversity is now a painful reality," said Brenda Fioretti, president of the Naples Area Board of Realtors.

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Date:Jul 28, 2010
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