Williamson County Commissioners on Tuesday approved an incentive package for Apple to develop 133 acres of ranch land into an office complex.
Apple announced plans last week to invest $1 billion to build a third complex in the Austin area; this would be the first in Williamson County.
Five commissioners voted unanimously to approve the deal. Apple could get 65 percent of the property taxes it pays returned over 15 years provided it meets certain requirements regarding job creation and other criteria.
Residents packed the commissioners court in Georgetown ahead of the vote. Commissioners tried to allay concerns about a corporate "handout."
"There are things that they've got to meet," County Judge Dan Gattis said. "They have to pay their taxes, then we rebate back based on the fact that they're meeting those milestones as they go along. If they don't meet them, then they don't get [the tax money] back."
If the Robinson Ranch tract weren't developed, the county would get only $2,400 in property tax revenue because of the agricultural exemption, Commissioner Cynthia Long, who represents Cedar Park, said.
With Apple's development, she estimated, the county would gain more than $7 million in revenue over 15 years.
"After that, it goes up dramatically,” she said.
Long highlighted the benefits to small businesses and contractors with Apple in the county.
Commissioner Terry Cook, who represents Round Rock, said the school district could see a big benefit from Apple’s new campus, but much of that might leave the taxing district under the state’s recapture law.
However, she said, because of the state's recapture law, the school district is going to be "handing back tons of money in claw back.”
Gattis anticipates commissioners will eventually be able to lower the residential tax rate with Apple’s presence. He said that could offset any jumps in home values, though it's too soon to tell. He said he’s aware of the affordability issue creeping into the county.
"The concern is these employees will live well," Gattis said. "Will the rest of the employees in the county, and in this area, be able to afford housing and so forth? Austin is really facing that. Travis County is really facing it. It's moving our way, and it's something that this county is going to have to take hold of and see what we can do to help with that."
The county deal is separate from the incentive package distributed by the governor’s office, the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF). It could award Apple as much as $25 million if it exceeds certain requirements regarding jobs created, wage standards and capital investment.
Apple already has two other campuses, one north off Parmer Lane and another west on Highway 360. The company received a TEF award for the Parmer Lane campus in 2012 – though it has received only a fraction of the money so far. That deal expires 10 years from now.
Even though the development is in the City of Austin, there are no incentives from the city for the project.