Folgers tax break saga heads to New Orleans court
Company wants property tax bill thrown out
Folger’s Coffee Plant near the Industrial Canal in New Orleans East. (Jo Naylor, April 2018. CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons).
A judge will hear arguments Thursday in a property tax lawsuit that Folgers Coffee Co. filed following a tax exemption fiasco that left the company owing millions in past due property taxes for its New Orleans East facilities.
The company is asking an Orleans Parish Civil District Court to throw out a bill from Tax Assessor Erroll Williams, who said the company owes about $5.1 million in current and back taxes.
The saga began more than a year ago when Folgers filed six different applications for Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP) for upgrades the company completed at its Chef Menteur Highway and Old Gentilly Road plants. The company sought lucrative ITEP breaks covering an entire decade.
Folgers has received a total of about $121 million in property tax exemptions from 2000 to 2017, according to a NOLA.com report.
After many residents and advocacy groups, including Together New Orleans, lobbied against the tax exemptions, all three local taxing bodies — the New Orleans City Council, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office and Orleans Parish School Board — denied all six of Folgers’ applications.
Following standard practice at the time, Williams kept the properties off the tax rolls while the applications were pending. Initial estimates put Folgers’ tax bill at about $12 million. Williams added the properties back on the rolls in March at a value of less than half that amount.
The reduction came after Folgers changed the amount of investments the company claimed it made in its property upgrades from $161.8 million to just $77.4 million.
“Homeowners and small businesses have to pay their taxes and so should Folgers,” City Council President Helena Moreno said in a press release. “The law and the votes have been clear: they owe these taxes that pay for essential city services like public safety and infrastructure. No one should be exempt from the law.”
Folgers did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Civil District Judge Omar Mason will preside over Thursday morning’s hearing.
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