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Sea World cutbacks, layoffs trouble local officials
Park reaps tax benefits as returns to city drop
Sea World of Texas' recent announcement of massive cutbacks in operations and employee layoffs has some public officials wondering if they should continue offering lucrative tax abatements to businesses.
In granting Sea World the country's first tax abatement in 1985, Bexar County officials based the decision largely on promises park officials gave to the county regarding employment levels and financial impact.
The city also contributed to the marine park by offering training programs for prospective employees with funding coming from the state.
But with last week's disclosure by Sea World that it would reduce its work force by 60 percent and partially close the park during certain months, it is clear that the benefits to the county and city will fall far below what was once envisioned. Still, county officials interviewed this week said the marine park will continue to reap the benefits awarded in the tax abatement agreement.
Local Sea World officials were unavailable for comment by press time on Wednesday.
Based on its assertions of financial contributions to Bexar County in 1985, Sea World was granted exemptions from a number of taxing entities, including the county, Bexar County Hospital District, Alamo Community College District, Edwards Underground Water District and Northside Independent School District.
The abatement with each entity calls for payments to be made to each in lieu of taxes -- fees that are substantially lower than what they would otherwise pay in taxes -- for the next 15 years.
Because of the agreement, Sea World potentially will save millions of dollars. …