Parish Council recap: Ordinance adopted for annual collection of taxes

Published 10:14 am Saturday, July 29, 2023

LAPLACE — A potential financial shortfall for St. John the Baptist Parish was averted Tuesday night when an ordinance providing for the levy and collection of ad valorem taxes was adopted by the Parish Council.

Earlier in the meeting, the ordinance failed for a lack of a second, which could have resulted in a $38 million shortfall that could have crippled parish operations. No discussion was held on either occasion the ordinance was presented.

During the public comments period after the initial reading of the ordinance, Wallace resident and community activist Joy Banner chastised the council for what she believes is the parish’s lack of response to the Port of South Louisiana earlier this year entering into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with grain elevator giant Greenfield Louisiana LLC. The CEA relieves Greenfield from paying more than $209 million in ad valorem taxes on a planned grain elevator.

Banner said parish officials had the opportunity to address the port commission on the CEA.

“That’s millions of dollars in taxes that are not coming to you, that’s millions of dollars that are not going to the school board,” she said.

She noted the Descendants Project has filed two lawsuits against the port in an attempt to have the sequence of events leading up to the CEA made public.

Banner believes that because of the many industries in the area St. John is an “extremely rich parish, believe it or not.”

“I see (residents) getting assistance with housing, with meals,” she said. “This should not be the case. I see the community around me dying despite all of the industry we have. It’s because you are not holding the industry players responsible.”

Following Banner’s comments, parish Chief Financial Officer Rob Figuero said the ordinance was for the annual renewal of the taxes.

Robert Arcuri made a motion to approve but following an awkward silence in which there was no second, Chairman Michael Wright announced it had failed, preventing any discussion.

After the council had finished its action agenda, Councilwoman Tammy Houston expressed her desire for a reconsideration of the earlier vote on the ordinance. She made a motion to accept and Councilman Lennix Madere seconded the motion. As earlier in the meeting there was no discussion but the ordinance did pass.

In other matters, members approved the parish to solicit bids for the synthetic turf project at REGALA Park. Chief Administrative Officer Peter Montz said the project will include the installation of synthetic turf, new drainage and dugout benches at the baseball fields at a cost of $535,138.

He expects construction to start later this year and be ready in time for the 2023 baseball season.

The council also approved awarding the contract for decorative post top luminaire streetlight fixtures to Notofo Industries at the cost of $739.51 per light. Montz said the fixtures will be placed anywhere in the parish that has them, especially in the Live Oak, River Oak and St. Andrew Estates subdivision.

“When the parish does accept a subdivision, they accept the subdivision with the streetlights, stop signs and things like that,” Parish President Jaclyn Hotard said. “When those items are broken, we must replace them to the standards the parish accepted them at the time.”