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LPPJ takes next step in rebate policy

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The Lincoln Parish Police Jury has taken the next step toward developing a policy on how it will handle requests for sales tax rebates that are part of the Louisiana Enterprise Zone program.

With no discussion and no debate, jurors on Tuesday accepted the report of their Economic Development Committee that calls for committee members to begin working on procedures regarding the tax abatement. The Enterprise Program allows qualified businesses to request waivers from local sales taxes paid on specified items purchased for use in construction and expansion projects.

In September, jurors refused to rebate the three-quarter cent parish tax to Monster Moto, maker of youth recreational vehicles, and Sunrise Hospitality, developers of a new hotel to be located on the Interstate-20 service road. Monster Moto has since withdrawn its request.

Enterprise Zone backers say the rebates are incentives for economic development.

Juror Skip Russell, who chairs the Economic Development Committee, said he expects the panel to begin discussing policy options in November. Whatever the committee recommends will have to be approved by the full jury to become effective.

Russell said the jury wants to show support for economic development and of efforts to bring new business and jobs to Lincoln Parish.

When the jury nixed the Monster Moto and Sunrise Hospitality requests, “we didn’t realize there was a concerted effort going on to bring new jobs, new business to Lincoln Parish,” Russell said.

But whether the Sunrise Hospitality request or another new pending Enterprise Zone request will be on the jury’s November meeting agenda hasn’t been decided, jury President Hazel Hunter said.

“We don’t have any policies and procedures (for granting the requests). We’re still in the discussion stage,” she said.

Russell said the Economic Development Committee would not discuss the specific requests, only policy formation.

In other action, jurors agreed to include a 2.5 percent across-the-board pay raise for parish employees into their 2016 budget planning. They also agreed to use 2015 funding levels for each agency requesting general fund money as a starting point for the 2016 budget. The only exception: the Registrar of Voters office. That office asked for less in 2016 than in 2015
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Juror Joe Henderson, who sits on the jury’s Finance Committee, said using current funding levels is just a guide for budget preparation.

“This is to give the CPA and (parish) administrator numbers to plug in,” Henderson said. “This is not the final vote on the budget.”

The total 2015 allocation to the 18 requesting parish offices or regional agencies was $545,087 compared to the 2016 asking of $604,388.

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