Broome signs order establishing committee to review ITEP applicants

    Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has issued an executive order establishing a committee to review and make recommendations on Industrial Tax Exemption Program applicants to local taxing authorities.

    The order, effective Oct. 31, does not give the committee the authority to approve applications for ITEP, which abates property taxes for a five year period. It simply establishes the committee’s membership and outlines the process by which it reviews and makes recommendations about applications for the incentive.

    The Metro Council and parish school board will each have a representative on the committee, which will also include the sheriff or a designate, and the mayor. All will serve for the length of their elected terms.

    “While the exemptions serve as a business development tool, they also have a large effect on the revenue bases for almost all local services,” Broome says in a prepared statement. “With local control comes the responsibility for us to have an orderly process to evaluate the exemption request on a cost benefit basis.”

    Until last year, parishes had little say in how the state administered ITEP. In June 2016, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order, handing control of the 80-year-old ITEP to each of the state’s 64 parishes.

    And while some parishes like Ascension and Rapides have already decided to move forward, Baton Rouge has wrestled with the process for months.

    Under the guidelines of Broome’s order, the committee will operate as a public body subject to the state’s open meetings and public records laws. It also shall establish and use a matrix to evaluate each applicant’s project and will have access to documents like a company’s request for the exemption and Louisiana Economic Development’s economic impact analysis. Applicants also must be present at committee meetings to answer questions.

    The Baton Rouge Area Chamber says the order is a great first step in creating a  predictable, transparent process for manufacturing companies seeking to invest in the Baton Rouge area.

    “Collaboration of these government agencies will help the parish determine a shared path forward for its economic development strategy, and it demonstrates the parish’s commitment to keeping East Baton Rouge competitive for manufacturing,” BRAC says in a statement. “This positive and proactive approach could be a model for the rest of the region and the state.”

    Read the full executive order.

    —Alexandria Burris 

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