Camden’s Corporate Tax Breaks Offset Any Benefits to City Finances

WHYY News | July 30, 2019 | More Issues
Camden has been more than generous with local tax incentives, so much so that the cash-strapped city will need even more money from state to stay solvent

Credit: Emma Lee/WHYY
New developments on the Camden waterfront receive substantial local tax breaks in addition to state tax incentives.
Things appear to be looking up for Camden. Crime is down. The unemployment rate is at a record low. And student performance at the city’s schools is climbing.

But a building boom for corporate offices has failed to boost the city’s finances. In fact, Camden is projected to become even more reliant on state aid to stay solvent over the next five years.

How can it be that the opening of dazzling new facilities for Subaru and the 76ers — among others — has failed to translate into a corresponding boost in property taxes: money that’s used to fund schools, pay police and pave roads?

The answer is that in addition to the $1.6 billion in state tax breaks awarded those companies, Camden also extended them local tax abatements that cut their property taxes roughly 70 percent over 20 years.

That includes no payments at all on-site “improvements” for the first decade. So, for example, if a company were to build a new headquarters on a vacant field, it would pay taxes for a decade as if the property were still a field.

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