Ascension Assessor wants input on ITEP implementation

Assessor M. J. “Mert” Smiley

The changes to the Industrial Tax Exemption Program rules by the Board of Commerce and Industry created a tremendous amount of uncertainty in regards to the implementation at the local level.  Your Assessor’s office has quickly provided any answers to questions from any local taxing body requesting information in order to make an informed decision.  We were even instrumental in developing the framework of a streamlined local process but could never gain the traction needed to make it a reality.  Despite our cooperative efforts, your Assessor’s office remains left in the dark after any action is taken by any taxing body or Louisiana Economic Development.  Eventually, we will receive information from LED but that could be months are years down the road.  The current process is incredibly inefficient and it is my desire as your Assessor to bring to light areas that need improvement and to be part of a solution to make the ITEP program more efficient and transparent.

Two items we seek to change:

  • Eliminating the lack of notification regarding the approval of ITEP contracts under the new rules.  We are already working with LED on making improvements to their system and will work with local government to ensure we receive all the property documentation for each ITEP transaction requiring local approval.
  • Requiring the Assessor to issue the same letter as issued by the Sheriff to provide local approval to an ITEP application.  As we always have and will continue to do, our office will work with our local government officials regarding future ITEP matters.  In addition, we are willing to issue letters with the same level of approval as issued by the Ascension Parish Sheriff to ratify all prior ITEP contracts requiring local approval in Ascension Parish.

To provide the public better understanding, it should be noted the Assessor is fully responsible to monitor all ITEP contracts on an annual basis and ensure those expired ITEP contracts are added to the appropriate tax roll.  Furthermore, a new accounting requirement called the GASB 77 requires our office to produce a report for each taxing body.  The GASB 77 is a full list of all tax abated contracts and the value of lost tax dollars to each taxing bodies. This new report takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to produce and all of our work has been done at the Assessor’s sole cost and expense and we have yet to charge a fee to any taxing body for these items.

Ultimately, the changes to the ITEP program have been positive but all we seek is to improve the current rules to ensure the Assessor is included in the process and that my office receives proper notification on a timely basis so my office can do our job properly and efficiently.  With the cooperation of LED and local government, we believe these changes are necessary and proper for efficient government.  The citizens of Ascension Parish and the State of Louisiana deserve this.

Sincerely,

M.J. “Mert” Smiley, Jr., CLA

Ascension Parish Assessor

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