- Associated Press - Saturday, March 4, 2017

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - A state appeal court has rejected a plan under which Cameron Parish could start collecting payments now from Cameron LNG instead of waiting until its state industrial property tax exemption runs out.

The American Press reports (https://bit.ly/2mj7Sjt ) that the court ruled the parish cannot exempt a company from paying the full assessed amount in property taxes.

Parish Administrator Ryan Bourriaque said the parish would have collected $503.5 million over 23 years, rather than an estimated $1.5 billion starting in 2029. The Cameron Parish Police Jury and School Board had agreed to the “payment in lieu of taxes,” or PILOT for short.

The tax assessor challenged the deal. His attorney, Brian Eddington, said the parish can adjust how property taxes are collected, but cannot reduce them.

“We’ve always advised the parties proposing it that there are right ways to do this - this simply isn’t one of them, especially considering the magnitude of the reduction in taxes,” Eddington said.

Bourriaque said the parish needs money now to prepare for growth from industries like Cameron LNG, and that it sought to raise those funds through the PILOT. Bourriaque has long argued that collecting a smaller amount now is better than waiting for the possibility of a large payment later.

But he said the Police Jury hasn’t given up and will decide whether to appeal the decision Wednesday. “We’re going to continue to work toward a resolution whereby the parish can get some funds up front,” Bourriaque said.

Eddington countered Bourriaque’s argument that residents wouldn’t see funds from Cameron LNG and other industries for the next 10 years, noting that both Cameron LNG and Cheniere Energy will be required to start paying property taxes on their import facilities starting in 2019 and 2020, when their 10-year exemption periods end.

Property taxes for both facilities have not yet been assessed.

Julie Nelson, Cameron LNG spokeswoman, said the company is “committed to being a good corporate partner in Cameron Parish and we will discuss further actions, if any, with Cameron Parish soon.”

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Information from: American Press, https://www.americanpress.com

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