The outside of the BASF Zachary manufacturing plant. (photo courtesy Google Maps)

GONZALES — The BASF plant in Geismar is asking for a break from property taxes, under the state's industrial tax exemption program, for the first 10 years of an expansion at its site, the second stage of a project announced in early 2018. 

The first stage was a $150 million project to begin doubling the Geismar plant's production of MDI (methylene diphenyl diisocynanate), a product used widely in polyurethane foams. The project won an industrial tax exemption from the state as well as Ascension Parish governing bodies last year.

The second stage, presented Tuesday to the Ascension Parish School Board, is an $87 million expansion of MDI production capabilities that won approval of a property tax exemption last month from the state Board of Commerce and Industry.

Now, BASF is making its pitch to local governments. The Ascension Parish School Board will vote on the request at its next meeting, on March 26, and the Parish Council and Sheriff's Office will also be looking at the exemption request, Kate MacArthur, chief executive officer of the Ascension Economic Development Corp., said Tuesday.

While the total investment of the expansion at BASF would be an $87 million investment for the company; some $76 million is what's eligible for a tax break under state regulations, MacArthur said. 

The expansion won't be creating any new jobs but will be retaining more than 1,000 at the Geismar site, the plant's director of operations, Kevin McCarroll, told School Board members. 

"It's an older plant," McCarroll said of the Geismar site. "We need to make investments that position us for the future.

"It's about retaining jobs and it keeps BASF competitive globally."

The industrial tax exemption, if approved, would mean an 80 percent abatement of property taxes on the expansion for five years, and an abatement renewable for an additional five years if the project meets its commitment in investment, MacArthur said.

During construction, the project is expected to generate $400,000 in sales tax revenues, she said.   

If the School Board approves the request from BASF, the school district would forgo $4 million in property taxes over the first 10 years of the project but would collect $1 million over that same time period, she said. 

Over the 30-year life of the project, the School Board would collect $5.3 million in property taxes, MacArthur said.

The BASF request is the second for an industrial tax exemption that's come before the Ascension Parish School Board this year.

In February, Shell Chemical won a property tax exemption from local governing bodies for a $1.2 billion expansion at its plant in Geismar for production of monoethylene glycol, used to make antifreeze and plastic. 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.