The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday denied property tax breaks to two companies seeking the benefit under the state’s industrial tax exemption program.
The council has now rejected all four applications for the program since Gov. John Bel Edwards, with an executive order last year, required local governmental approval.
The council voted 5-0 to reject the latest applications, from wholesale jewelry manufacturer Stuller Inc. and from Advance Products and Systems, which manufactures and distributes pipeline products.
Councilman William Theriot said it’s “absurd” for the council to grant tax exemptions when voters are being asked to consider new taxes on Saturday's ballot — a sales tax for law enforcement and a property tax in unincorporated areas for parish fire protection.
Four council members Tuesday were absent for various reasons: Liz Hebert was away on business; Nanette Cook and Kevin Naquin were absent for family reasons; and Kenneth Boudreaux was ill.
The industrial tax exemption program provides tax exemptions on certain capital investments for manufacturers in exchange for job creation.
Stuller said in its application that it had invested $1.7 million in 3D printers, laser engraving equipment and other items, resulting in six new manufacturing and sales jobs.
The company’s chief investment officer, Michael Dehart, told council members the investment amount in the application only reflected that which qualified for an exemption, and the company had in fact spent nearly double that amount on the new equipment. The company sought exemptions worth about $162,000 over eight years, according to its application.
The Stuller and Advance Products applications received state approval prior to receiving council consideration, and Stuller executive Jason Patten said the council’s rejection is confusing.
“We need to take subjectivity out of the program,” Patten said.
Advance Products said it had created 12 new machine and assembly positions with an investment of more than $590,000 in new equipment. The average annual salary of the company’s new positions is about $30,500, and it sought an exemption worth a little more than $60,000 over eight years.
The application was nearly identical to a previous application from the company, one of two the council rejected earlier this year.
Lafayette Parish Assessor Conrad Comeaux, without explicitly taking a position, told council members the tax exemption program is relatively modest compared to the homestead exemption program. The homeowner program resulted in $33 million in exemptions in Lafayette Parish last year, Comeaux said, while the one for manufacturers totaled $2.8 million.
That didn’t satisfy Councilman Jared Bellard, who said the program unfairly benefits large companies.
“There are a lot of small businesses that do not get this at all,” Bellard said.