EBR Metro Council gives green light to tax breaks for redevelopment projects

EBR Metro Council gives green light to tax breaks for redevelopment projects
Source: WAFB
Source: WAFB

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted Wednesday on property tax breaks for two local companies working to redevelop buildings in the parish.

The tax breaks are part of the state's restoration tax abatement program. Local councils get a say in the matter because local governments are directly impacted by property tax breaks. The applications now head to a state board for their consideration.

In exchange for the tax breaks, these projects are supposed to improve certain areas of the parish and create new jobs.

"You have an existing building, most of the time they need a lot of work, it may be completely inhabitable or it may need some rehabilitation on the inside," said Carrie Broussard, the long-range planning manager for the EBR Planning Commission.

One of those projects is the Renaissance Hotel on Bluebonnet Boulevard. The owners of the hotel are looking to renew the tax break they have received for the past five years.

Five years ago, the hotel did not exist. It was a shell of a building and an eyesore that stood as part of the dormant Jimmy Swaggart ministry complex.

When new owners took over with the goal of making it into a hotel, they received a property tax break as an incentive from the parish. For five years, they were not taxed on any of the improvements, meaning that the property tax remained essentially the same.

"For example, if someone comes in and does a $5 million improvement to a $1 million building, they're still going to pay property taxes on the $1 million it was assessed at previously," Broussard explained.

If they were able to extend the tax break for the next five years, the planning commission estimates the hotel would pay approximately $324,000 less each year in taxes, meaning less money to help fund public projects.

In this case, EBR public schools would stand to lose the most. They would receive $129,000 less each year.

St. George Fire would take an estimated $48,000 hit. The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office would see $45,000 less and BREC parks would see $43,000 less.

"They will still be paying property taxes to all of those entities, but it will be less," Broussard.

All told, over the next five years, the property tax break for the hotel would total approximately $1.6 million.

The manager for the Renaissance Hotel said they currently employee more than 100 people.

The company that owns the hotel, Wampold Company, did not return a request for comment about why they need another five years of tax breaks.

The council also a consider a five-year tax break for a company looking to redevelop a run-down apartment complex on Lobdell Boulevard in north Baton Rouge. Formerly Hawthorne Heights, the upgraded complex would be called Ardendale Oaks.

The EBR Planning Commission estimates that the tax break will be worth about $382,000 annually. EBR schools will again receive less money each year as a result: $142,000. The Sheriff's office, parish libraries, BREC, and Capital Area Transit will all also receive less tax revenue.

Copyright 2016 WAFB. All rights reserved.