St. James amends Nucor tax ordinance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 4, 2010



CONVENT – A proposed St. James Parish ordinance to exempt Nucor Corp. from paying sales taxes on machinery purchased and/or leased within the parish during construction of the first phase of a steel and iron facility in Convent caused a stir among school system personnel who thought the measure would exempt the school board’s share of the tax as well.

During a lengthy public hearing in Convent Wednesday night, St. James School Superintendant Alonzo Luce and various school board members raised concerns over language in the ordinance. Luce had asked that the ordinance be slightly amended to add language to clarify that the measure only exempts Nucor from parish taxes.

“The school system supports the project,” Luce said. “We are excited about it, but we would appreciate the amendment. The measure made it seem as though you were giving all the taxes away.”

Parish President Dale Hymel said the ordinance, in its original form, only exempts Nucor from the parish’s portion of a 1-cent sales tax within the parish. Nucor would still be responsible for the 2.5-percent sales tax that funds educator salaries and helps maintain educational facilities in the parish.

With the passage of the ordinance Wednesday, Nucor is now off the hook for about $2.2 million during the construction phase of its $750 million direct reduced iron facility and $180,000 during the operations phase. Hymel said the company will still be responsible for about $2.1 million in taxes during construction and about $160,000 during operations.

Although the ordinance passed, some council members seemed like they felt slighted by the school board’s request, saying that it seemed as though the school board was interfering with parish business. The school board passed a resolution Tuesday to request the clarification on the ordinance.

Luce assured the council that the school board was not acting with any malice toward the council. He said the school system’s legal advisors recommended the actions to ensure that the council and school board are on the same page.

Luce said Wednesday that the school system had been meeting with parish and Nucor officials since June 2008 for preliminary talks, but a final draft of the cooperative endeavor agreement changed the amount of money the school system would receive. Luce just asked that the school board be present for any future negotiations.

Although the company announced in September it would be building its facility in St. James rather than moving to Brazil, Nucor changed the scope of the project and must still request proper environmental permits before construction can begin. The state Department of Environmental Quality will conduct a public hearing to receive comments prior to issuing a new air quality permit to Nucor. The hearing will be held Dec. 28 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the St. James courthouse.