By Bonnie Culverhouse
While the Webster Parish Police Jury prepares to revisit their decision to deny a new company’s request for tax exemption, Webster Parish Sheriff Jason Parker has agreed, as another taxing district, to grant the wish of E.I. Williams.
“Yes, we will be losing money by exempting them for the five years they have requested, but you have to look at the overall picture,” Parker said. “The money we will receive is money we wouldn’t have if they weren’t here.”
E.I. Williams, located in the North Webster Industrial District, is Canada-based. The company manufactures silencers and mufflers to be used in the power generation industry. Fibrebond in Minden is their main customer.
According to the Webster Parish Assessor, the company’s estimated investment on the building was more than $800,000, with machinery and equipment coming in at more than $900,000. It would have an assessed value of around $290,000.
The Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) would exempt more than $230,000.
Assessor Denise Edwards said the ITEP program has not always worked this way.
“Until 2016, the state had control of ITEP,” Edwards said. “If we sent the state the application, they would exempt them off the tax roll.”
She said Gov. John Bel Edwards issued an executive order in 2016, stating local taxing districts deserve some input “because it is really their money – it’s not the state’s money.”
The order passed the vote to the police jury, sheriff (who collects taxes) and the school board. They were allowed to negotiate the percentage and the number of years for the exemption. Edwards said that lasted one year.
In a second executive order, Gov. Edwards changed the wording to exempt 80 percent.
“At first, if one of the three districts said ‘no,’ it was turned down. It had to be unanimous,” she said. “Now, each one of them decides for their own taxes.”
At their last regular meeting, the police jury cast a negative vote, while the sheriff held a town hall meeting and, after talking with attendees, case a positive vote. The police jury may discuss the issue at their next meeting.
The Webster Parish School Board is expected to vote at the June meeting.