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Newsmaker of the Week: ExxonMobil

Editor’s Note: Officials with ExxonMobil sent an email response regarding BREC’s property tax claims following the story’s publication.

The latest salvo in the ongoing debate about ExxonMobil and the property taxes it’s paying to East Baton Rouge Parish—or is being granted an exemption on—BREC is alleging that the assessed value of Exxon’s local facilities is off by hundreds of millions of dollars.  

“We received a notice that approximately $338 million was potentially not included in the tax assessor’s rolls this year,” says BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight in a prepared statement.

In a nine-page appeal to the Louisiana Tax Commission, BREC says taxing authorities in the parish stand to miss out on nearly $5 million next year. BREC stands to miss out on about $700,000 annually, McKnight says.

ExxonMobil officials say they were previously not aware of any concerns from BREC regarding the assessed value of its property.

While the BREC Board of Commissioners was informed of the appeal at its meeting Wednesday, it didn’t formally vote on the matter.

“We annually pay on the value for which our plants are assessed.  In addition to original cost and state-issued depreciation tables, our property values can be influenced by a multitude of factors, including but not limited to property-specific characteristics, plant design, location, functionality, utilization rates, and market conditions,” said ExxonMobil in an emailed response, adding its property tax payments to the city-parish are now more than $32 million, up from $29 million in 2011.

“There are numerous property specific characteristics that must be considered in rendering an accurate market value on complex properties,” the response goes on to say. “With a facility that is nearly 110 years old containing thousands of taxable pieces of equipment, estimating fair market value is complex. In addition to M&E, our 1,200-plus accounts are comprised of land/outlots, inventories, computers, buildings, vehicles, railcars, and other assets that make up our overall tax liability.”

The BREC challenge comes as a significant Industrial Tax Exemption Program request from Exxon is about to be taken up for final approval by the Metro Council and sheriff.

The request for a potential expansion project worth up to $1 billion won the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board’s approval Thursday, taking it one step further in the process of final approval.

Exxon, which employs as many as 5,000 people in the Baton Rouge area,  first got approval of its ITEP request from the state Board of Commerce and Industry on Aug. 29.

The Metro Council is slated to take up the matter at its meeting next Wednesday, while Sheriff Sid Gautreaux has until the end of October to sign off on the request.

Together Baton Rouge, which has been critical of ITEP, has urged the school board and council to establish standards for approving ITEP requests. While the Exxon expansion project will likely meet those standards, TBR says, other pending Exxon ITEP requests that will soon come before the boards are more problematic.  

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