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|West Monroe poised to repay V-Vehicle taxes|
The West Monroe Board of Aldermen took the initial step Tuesday night in refunding property taxes collected from city property owners for the V-Vehicle Co. project.
Aldermen acted on the matter at their regular meeting.
Mayor Dave Norris said the board of aldermen's approval of an ordinance allowing for the repayment of property taxes collected for the V-Vehicle project should not be interpreted as if he and the board of aldermen were giving up on V-Vehicle. V-Vehicle's plans to establish an automobile manufacturing operation in Ouachita Parish have been slowed while the company awaits word on whether it will be granted a $320 million loan from the U.S. Department of Energy.
"The ordinance simply gives us the ability to repay the taxes if that is what it comes to," Norris said. "It does not indicate that we are giving up on the V-Vehicle project."
Last fall, Ouachita Parish voters approved a 1.8-mill property tax to help finance a $15 million incentives package that local governments pledged to lure V-Vehicle to the region.
The cities of Monroe and West Monroe and the Ouachita Parish Police Jury are responsible for $11.5 million of the $15 million incentives package. Besides the cities and the police jury, Ouachita Economic Development Land Corp. and the Interstate 20 Economic Development District are helping finance the local incentives package.
Since the cities and the police jury did not have $11.5 million readily available to meet their obligation, parish voters were asked to approve the 1.8-mill property tax proposition, which they did in the October 2009 election cycle. The tax can be collected for no longer than 15 years. Also, parish voters were told prior to the October 2009 tax election that if V-Vehicle's efforts to establish an automobile manufacturing operation here failed, the 1.8-mill property tax would be removed from tax rolls and monies generated by the property tax would be returned to property tax payers.
The 1.8-mill property tax is paid by property owners in Monroe, West Monroe, and in the unincorporated areas of the parish. Each city and the police jury are responsible for levying the property tax in their respective jurisdictions. Monroe City Council, West Monroe Board of Aldermen and the police jury were required to pass ordinances to ask voters to approve the 1.8-mill property tax. Each city's governing body and the police jury are required to pass ordinances calling for a repayment of property taxes collected for the incentives package for V-Vehicle.
Last summer, V-Vehicle announced its intentions to establish an automobile manufacturing operation in the former Guide plant off Interstate 20 in eastern Ouachita Parish. V-Vehicle said its presence in Ouachita would create 1,400 permanent jobs, hundreds of construction jobs and another 1,800 indirect jobs in light of its activities here.
Besides the incentives package local governments pledged to V-Vehicle, Louisiana Economic Development Corp. offered a $130 million incentives package. Thus far, the state has spent more $6 million toward site work in rehabbing the former Guide plant to house V-Vehicle, which has plans to build fuel-efficient automobiles.
The V-Vehicle project hinges on the company landing a $320 million loan from the Department of Energy through its Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program. V-Vehicle officials say they should know the fate of their loan application with the Department of Energy by the end of March.
When V-Vehicle agreed to locate in Ouachita, the company signed a cooperative endeavor agreement with LED and parish governing bodies. The agreement required V-Vehicle to have some $350 million on hand by March 1 to access the bulk of the state incentives package and the $15 million incentives package offered by local governments.
The $320 million loan from the Department of Energy was vital for V-Vehicle to meet the March 1 deadline.
However, state and local officials have signaled that incentives packages offered by LED and local governments would be made available to V-Vehicle if the company lands its loan from the Department of Energy in the next month or two.