Wednesday night Metro Council meeting to review recently adjusted ITEP guidelines
March 11, 2020
BATON ROUGE – ‘Together Baton Rouge’ leaders say recent changes to the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program resulted in the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board and parish taxing authorities receiving a total of $10.5 million in new annual revenue.
According to The Advocate, the faith-based advocacy group’s research of also estimates that the parish could get up to $21.5 million in total new revenue by 2021.
This would happen if the new, stricter guidelines for tax exemptions were to remain in place.
Those guidelines were reflective of a 2016 executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards which gave local taxing authorities more say-so over which companies were granted tax breaks.
But the governor’s administration recently pushed changes that would put more power back in state officials’ hands. This would allow industrial companies to appeal any rejection for tax breaks by a local governing authority to the state’s Board of Commerce and Industry.
After the school board and Metro Council rejected an exemption request from ExxonMobil, the business community requested changes in the way the program is handled.
Council Pro Tem Scott Wilson has said the Metro Council needed to revisit its ITEP guidelines to align more with the recent changes made at the state level.
Together Baton Rouge leaders opposed those changes when the state’s Board of Commerce voted on them.
The Metro Council will hold a public hearing on the matter at its meeting Wednesday.
Together Baton Rouge leaders declined to comment on their position in relation to the issue.
The group is, instead, focusing on how the ITEP reform benefited the parish.
“We’re trying to put this information out there so that people making the decisions know what’s happening,” said Rick Moreland, a retired LSU professor and leader with Together Baton Rouge. “We think this made the difference with the school board not having to lay off teachers because of the deficit they were facing before.”
The group’s data asserts the percentage of industrial properties getting tax exemptions dropped by 17% between 2016 and 2018 in East Baton Rouge Parish.
The Advocate reports that The Metro Council’s Wednesday night meeting will likely tackle two of the provisions that conflict with the new ITEP changes.
One is that the parish’s guidelines require only new projects and expansions are eligible for tax breaks from the council, which no longer is the case at the state level.
It is also likely to examine the fact that expansions and new construction projects create at least 15 permanent jobs, or 10% of the business’s pre-project employment baseline, to get tax cuts.