Livingston Parish Council vote fails to increase tax incentive for Juban Crossing development

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POSTED: Friday, July 26, 2013 - 5:00am

UPDATED: Friday, July 26, 2013 - 12:54pm

After more than an hour and a half of spirited debate, the Livingston Parish Council failed to vote on an increased tax incentive for the Juban Crossing development.

At issue is the amount of sales tax revenue the developer would be able to keep to put towards bonds to finance the infrastructure needed for the shopping mall.

The council had previously approved giving the developer 40 percent of the local sales taxes to help it finance the project. The ordinance up for debate Thursday night would increase that amount to 75 percent, of which roughly 62.5 percent would go towards bonds.

"There's a lot of rumors going out there that's not true that you're going to give 100 percent of the sales tax," Councilman Marshall Harris said, "and that's not true."

But supporters and critics alike often contradicted and confused themselves, mixing ratios and percentages while discussing Juban Crossing in comparison to other tax incentive financed (TIF) projects, such as the Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs.

"Is there a way that you can, we can table this for now, 'til we can get some of that information, so that we can show everybody what the numbers are?" asked Councilwoman Cindy Wale. "Because the numbers don't lie; the numbers are the numbers."

The developer has said that Juban Crossing will be built regardless of how much money Livingston Parish kicks in. The only difference will be in the quality of the mall.

"I want to know how the parish will benefit from increasing the amount of money we are allotting to them," said Taryn Creekbaum, of Walker.

"The ad valorem tax, property tax, that we're going to receive off of this development will far exceed anything that we're, quote, giving up," countered Parish President Layton Ricks.

Chance Parent was the most outspoken opponent on the council. He argued that giving 40 percent of the tax revenue was more than enough.

"To sit here and make a decision, as a business owner, to give up everything, is that a good business decision for this parish?" he asked.

"This parish is suffering financially. And we're going to continue to suffer."

"You can't give up something that you don't have," Councilman Delos Blackwell responded. "And I can't see...we keep saying, 'we're giving it up, we're giving it up.' You can't give something up if you don't have it, and we don't have it right now."

Creekbaum pointed out that giving such a large amount of future tax revenue could set a bad precedent for the parish.

"Then what will happen," she asked the council, "when the next developer comes before you and promotes his development as the crown jewel of the Walker exit? The Satsuma exit? The Livingston exit? And so on."

Ricky Goff was the only council member who wanted to approve the funding increase Thursday night. He noted that many residents of Livingston Parish choose to live there for the low crime rate and quality school system, but they work in Baton Rouge.

"It will keep those jobs right here in our parish. The construction jobs, the permanent jobs, etc. It'll keep them here," he said.

"We leave because we want to go shop, cause we ain't got no other place to shop. So we definitely will keep our dollars here in our parish."  

Goff's motion to approve the ordinance died when nobody stepped forward to second it.

The council can reintroduce the funding increase at its next meeting on August 8, with another public hearing four weeks after that.

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