School Board OKs two more property tax exemptions — but at 80 percent
Members of the Calcasieu Parish School Board actively engaged with two industrial tax exemption program applications presented Tuesday night. Throughout the deliberations, Mack Dellafosse, board president, invited Wilfred Bourne, CPSB CFO and Calcasieu Parish Taxing Authority appointee, to the floor to explain ITEP’s history, processes and rules as the board made its decisions.
The taxing authority first presented the board with a recommendation to approve Juniper Specialty Products for a five-year, 100 percent industrial property tax exemption, with a five-year renewal clause included if the industry complies with all its application requirements. Juniper Specialty Products is already partly operational in Westlake and requested funding to expand its operation and create 41 new jobs.
Board members, almost immediately, passed a motion to reduce the exemption to 80 percent as the project is already underway and will finish completion in July, according to the company’s senior vice president of finance. Dellafosse questioned the company as to whether it would cease its operations if it wasn’t granted an exemption. The vice president said it would not, but that it would be an unfortunate turn of events for the company, which could affect its long-term decision-making should the company take off and expand.
The board voted to approve the application at an 80 percent exemption with Dellafosse as the only dissenting party.
The board then motioned to grant an ITE to South Alexander Development, a solar energy company, despite the taxing authority’s recommendation to deny it due to insufficient economic impact. The company’s application shows it will only create one new job, but the board resolved that the introduction of solar energy to the region was worth getting the project off the ground.
Dean Roberts, district six, reminded the board that both November and December’s ITEP applications were only approved for five years with the additional five-year renewal not yet secured. Making decisions that are "uninviting" to business, he warned, may not serve the region’s best interest long term.
Following Roberts’ cue, board members questioned Bourne as to whether the five-year renewal clause was guaranteed or negotiable. Bourne said that beyond industry not following through with its commitment to produce jobs, he couldn’t say definitively if there was a way to revoke the clause once the exemption was granted.
Seeking even further clarification on five years or 10 years, Ron Hayes, district five, asked Bourne if he knew of any local industries that have had their exemption renewal revoked, but Bourne said he could not answer that statement either as local boards only recently gained power in the 80-plus year old process.
As a final order of business, the board approved district 23’s motion to run a special election on Saturday, May 4, 2019, for the passage of a $42 million bond.