How should Ascension Parish Council handle companies that get tax breaks but miss goals?

Michael Tortorich
Gonzales Weekly Citizen
The Ascension Parish Courthouse in Donaldsonville is shown in a file photo.

During the Oct. 6 meeting in Donaldsonville, the Ascension Parish Council deferred a decision on handling a company that received tax breaks but failed to meet payroll and job requirements as planned.

Council members expected to make a decision during a special meeting the following week after getting an opportunity to further review options on the matter.

The company in question was Mauser USA LLC, which received a roughly $1 million industrial tax exemption over eight years through a Louisiana incentive program meant to encourage private entities to build and expand in the state.

In 2017, Gov. John Bel Edwards and the German-based industrial packing company announced plans to invest some $10 million in a packaging and logistics facility in Geismar, which was close to the company's major industrial customers.

According to the 2017 announcement, the project was expected to create 28 new jobs with salaries averaging around $58,000 a year plus benefits. The project had the potential to include a second phase, which would have added 19 extra jobs.

Through the years 2018 to 2020, the company narrowly missed its payroll and job targets.

"I see they tried, but a contract is a contract," council member Corey Orgeron said during the discussion. "The citizens need improvements. We have roads, we have bridges, we have drainage, we have education. We have all these issues, and money is scarce."

Later in the discussion, council member Michael Mason said the council has made similar exceptions in the past and didn't understand "drawing a hard line in the sand" with the relatively small company.

"We need opportunities for people who live in this parish. We have a lot of people going to Baton Rouge for opportunities and that's creating traffic issues. If we have something in-house that's hiring high school kids and paying them a decent, livable wage, I don't see why we are trying to penalize this company for a few missed employees," Mason said.

Council member Aaron Lawler expressed concern about setting a precedent, pointing out the potential for making exceptions for projects that could reach billions of dollars.

"We should be treating every company the same regardless of the size of the company," Lawler said.

Parish President Clint Cointment emphasized to the council that they have flexibility and can judge every situation as unique without worrying about precedent.

The council ultimately agreed to hold the special meeting either before or after the monthly finance committee meeting.