In the debate over a wood pellet mill that is being built in George County near Lucedale, both sides are missing a key point.
The pro-mill side says Enviva’s $140 million pellet mill and a $60 million loading terminal at the port in Pascagoula will provide more markets for the state’s generous timber resources. The anti-mill side argues from an environmental viewpoint and that the mill would bring a danger to state residents due to increased health risks from emissions and airborne particles.
No one is talking about what the mill will cost taxpayers. Taxpayers statewide, through the Mississippi Development Authority, will be providing $4 million in grant funds, with $1.4 million for a water well and a water tank, while the other $2.5 million is for other infrastructure needs and site work.
George County will provide $13 million in property tax breaks over the next 10 years.
The company is expected to hire 90 employees in Lucedale, with 300 loggers and truckers possibly finding work supplying logs to the company.
All of those incentives, if realized, could add up to $17 million or about $188,888 per job.
The lost revenue will have an effect on George County’s budget over the next decade, especially since counties don’t receive sales tax revenue. According to the most recent audit from April 24, George County received $8,445,185 in property taxes.
Over the last four years, the county has taken in $32,051,659 in property taxes, an average of $8,012,915. Extrapolating this over a decade, the county could be expected to take in about $80 million in property taxes.
If Enviva realizes all of the property tax breaks, the county will lose 13.9 percent in potential revenue.
George County property tax receipts
The only winner during the first decade of the deal with Enviva might be the city of Lucedale, which could see a boost in sales tax revenue from the plant.
According to data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue, the DOR has disbursed $18,386,882 in sales tax revenue to the city from 2010 to 2018. The DOR disburses 18 percent of the state’s 7 percent sales tax to municipalities. In 2017, sales tax revenue ($2,204,988) represented 46.8 percent of the city’s $4.7 million budget.
Enviva is the world’s largest wood pellet producer and produces pellets to fuel overseas power plants. It has seven mills in the Southeast and one of those mills is in Amory, acquired in August 2010.
These wood pellets are made from low-grade wood fiber unsuitable for lumber because of small size, defects, disease or pest infestation; parts of trees that can’t be processed into lumber and chips, sawdust and other residue. The plant will mill, dry and pellet the wood in a press, using natural polymers in the wood called lignin to act as a natural glue.