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|Police jurors call out business community|
With the Oct. 17 election on the horizon, several Ouachita Parish police jurors are calling on the local business community to support a property tax to aid V-Vehicle's plans to operate a manufacturing facility in the former Guide plant in eastern Ouachita.
In recent weeks, several police jurors have fielded telephone calls from residents regarding the proposed 1.8-mill property tax the police jury placed on the Oct. 17 ballot.
The proposed property tax would help pay for a $15 million incentives package local governments and Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. pledged to lure the V-Vehicle automotive manufacturing company to Ouachita Parish.
Besides the incentives package the police jury, the land corporation and the cities of Monroe and West Monroe pledged, the state put up roughly $85 million in incentives to convince V-Vehicle to locate here.
Police jury president Shane Smiley said he has received numerous calls from people wanting to know more information about the proposed property tax.
"People want to know more information," Smiley said. "They want to know how long it's going to be on the tax books and how it affects them, what we're doing with it and how many jobs will this company have, and so on."
"I know people are talking to the mayors of both cities and they are getting the same questions," Smiley said.
If voters approve the proposed property tax, it can be assessed for no more than 15 years and money generated from the tax would be used solely to pay off the $12.45 obligation of the two cities and the police jury. Once the local financial obligation is fulfilled, the property tax must be canceled. Local officials have said they believe the financial commitment for V-Vehicle could be paid off in eight years.
The proposed property tax would generate roughly $1.45 million annually.
Smiley said people can visit the Ouachita Parish Tax Assessor's Office's website and calculate how much the proposed 1.8-mill property tax would affect them.
Police juror Charles Jackson suggested that local officials discuss the matter with the local business community, especially both chambers of commerce.
"I think the business community - if they support this - they should step up and help with the message," Jackson said.
"We really need to get the business community to step up," he said. "They were all there when the big announcement was made and they all stand to benefit from this."
"The business people I've talked to are excited about the prospect of it coming here," Jackson continued. "I think it's important the business community say, 'Yeah, this really is a priority.'
"The business community pays 80 percent of the property tax burden, and we know who they are, so if they could step forward and say, 'We'll be paying most of it and we think it's a good thing.'"
Smiley said he's been involved in numerous speaking engagements with the public over the last five weeks where the proposed property tax was discussed. However, he believes there are people in the community who may not understand what they will be asked to vote on in October.
"I've talked to groups of five and groups of a hundred, and some of them act like it appeared in the papers this morning," Smiley said. "I continue to get calls and I don't know what else to say. I just want to do something. I would like to see the millage pass, and that's what I'm trying to help accomplish."
Police juror Pat Moore says she has witnessed plenty of opposition to the proposed property tax.
"We want this thing to pass, so we have to get the information out," Moore said. "We just have to give out the facts and work with the cities and try to make sure we do our part in getting out that information."
She also believes some people think local governments should have considered asking voters to approve a sales tax in lieu of a property tax.
Police juror Walt Caldwell said that was not an option.
Parish attorney Jay Mitchell added, "The option of a sales tax has been raised, but the fact is it would take special legislation and the Legislature is not going into session."
V-Vehicle plans to take over the former Guide plant and create 1,400 new, direct jobs and 1,800 indirect jobs. V-Vehicle says it will manufacture fuel efficient automobiles at the former Guide facility.