OR, GOOD PLANNING?
In case Caddo voters are planning ahead, they can now mark May 2nd on calendars to vote on a tax renewal. And if that is not exciting enough, they may have a Caddo Parish School Board bond package to also consider on that day. This May could be a banner month for Caddo residents who do not own real estate – – getting to burden their fellow citizens who are landowners with more taxes.
In what must be the earliest vote on a tax renewal, the Biomedical Research Foundation of North Louisiana (“Biomed”) successfully convinced the Caddo Commission to schedule a vote for 1.74 tax renewal for a period of 15 years – – beginning in 2018; yes 3 years from now! (1.67 mils is dedicated to Biomed and the balance of 0.07 mil for the Caddo juvenile justice system.) The Biomed’s funds are dedicated to promoting economic development as well as scientific and educational programs.
Dr. John George, Biomed Vice Chairman, made the sales pitch to the Commission, stating that the “return” on the taxes was 7-1 by leveraging state and federal funds and grants. George touted that the Biomed’s economic impact was 3,890 direct jobs and 6,832 indirect jobs. He also advised that 93 percent of the Biomed’s facilities are leased.
When questioned about the very early renewal election, George said it was needed now to effectively budget for coming years. He indicated that the coming months Biomed plans to build a 60,000 square foot radio pharmaceutical imagery center that will house approximately 40 people. He also recited the standard mantra that it was not a new tax.
Many concerned citizens question the real impact of the Biomed, and especially the Parish and City grants in addition to the tax milage. Biomed’s scheduling of the tax renewal 3 years before its expiration has further raised skepticism about Biomed, especially when the Caddo School Board is mulling a $180 million bond package. (The street talk is that Biomed, like the State of Louisiana, is broke and that the renewal is really needed to secure existing liabilities that need to be refinanced).
Caddo Commissioner Michael Williams stated before his vote that he wanted Biomed to be more transparent and open to future inquiries by the Commission. (Williams was 1 of 3 Commissioners who voted against scheduling the Biomed renewal vote). Just how transparent Biomed will be should be known soon; public records requests for detailed information have been sent concerning income, expenses and tenants. More will be written on Biomed later.