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Growth in the city of Zachary is a factor for the school system and the Zachary Community School Board, seen Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2018.

The Zachary Community School Board unanimously approved a tax break for Georgia-Pacific, relieving the company from paying $2 million in property taxes over the next five years.

The five-year exemption means the company — which operates a production plant outside Zachary city limits but within the school district’s boundaries — won’t have to pay 80 percent of the property taxes it owes on an expansion and other upgrades it completed in 2017.

Collections from a dedicated property tax are a major funding source for the school district.

The $42 million plant expansion created 30 permanent jobs and about 230 construction jobs, school district business manager John Musso said at Tuesday's board meeting. He added that the jobs benefit Zachary schools by attracting people to the area or helping keep them around.

“As good community partners with Georgia-Pacific, I think it’s a great opportunity for us,” Musso said. “It’s reinvestment into the community. They are the largest taxpayer in the district. Almost half our property taxes come from Georgia-Pacific.”

Georgia-Pacific previously could get such tax exemptions through the state's Industrial Tax Exemption Program solely through state officials, Superintendent Scott Devillier said. But a change in state law requires companies also to get approval from local government entities affected, such as the school board, he said.

Georgia-Pacific must still go to the Metro Council and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office to ask for approval of those agencies' portion of the exemption, Devillier said.

Group blasts 'massive loophole' in EBR school board's proposed industrial tax break

Also on Tuesday, the board awarded a contract to apparent low bidder Global Synthetics Environmental, of Baton Rouge, for renovations at Zachary High School’s stadium. For a price tag of $1,197,000, the stadium will get a renovated, enlarged press box; about 800 additional seats; and a new entrance plaza and ticket booth.

The second lowest bidder, BDS Construction, however, is challenging the winning bid and has filed a petition for a temporary restraining order. That firm contends the winning bid isn’t valid because its representatives signed into a pre-bid meeting using the name Geo-Surfaces, a trade name owned by Global Synthetics Environmental, but later signed a bid form as Global Synthetics Environmental, Musso said.

BDS Construction’s bid was $1,379,000.

In other action, the board recognized:

  • Fifth grader Han Truong, who won the school district’s annual Christmas card design contest. Truong’s illustration, which depicts a snowy tree decorated with a large “Z”, is on the front of the roughly 100 cards the school system is sending to its supporters, Louisiana school superintendents and elected officials.
  • Outgoing District 4 board member Donna Grice, who was elected in 2014 and did not seek reelection this year. Kenneth Mackie, a former board member, will take over the seat next month.