Opinion by John SettleThe Biomedical Research Foundation of North Louisiana (“Biomed”) is doing a great job – – if one does not believe that, just ask Biomed. But if a taxpayer wants more information to make a self determination of just how well Biomed is spending tax dollars – well, good luck.

On January 13 of this year, a simple public records request (PRR) was faxed to the office of the president of Biomed; the request was “to please provide detailed income and expense statements for 2014. Also provide listing of tenants and amount of space.” Under the Louisiana Public Records Act, a response was due no later than January 21st. A follow up fax was sent on January 28, advising that the January 13 PRR was overdue and that if not answered by Thursday January 28 litigation would be filed to require a response.

Answers NExt ExitDr. John F. George, Jr. (Biomed President/CEO) sent a fax on the deadline day that basically was a dodge. George provided a website address that contained the tax returns of Biomed for 2011, 2012, and 2013 – citing “IRS guidelines governing the public disclosure requirements of exempt organizations.” He also included a copy of Biomed’s 2014 annual report.

Biomed has recently persuaded the Caddo Commissioner to put a 1.74 million tax renewal on a May 2 ballot. The renewal is for 2018 – yes 3 years from now. George appeared before the Commission for the sales pitch, and touted a great “return” on tax dollars. Seemingly if Biomed has the back up information to prove the proclaimed 7-1 return by leveraging state and federal grants, then the information requested could have been provided. Admittedly it may be a little early in the 2015 calendar year for a detailed accounting of 2014 income and expenses – – if so, that response should have been given. But certainly George could have provided a tenant list with amount of space based to each.

QUESTION DODGEThe returns, which are somewhat difficult to interpret, did provide some interesting tidbits. “Highlights” of the 2013 return included payments of over $3.9 million in consultant fees; rental revenues of $4.125 million; total revenues in excess of $7.1 million; compensation of officers of $632,000 and payment of other salaries and wages exceeding $2.2 million.

The 2012 tax return reflected consultant fees paid in excess of $146,000; rental revenues exceeding $5.3 million; total revenues in excess of $9.2 million; compensation of officers of $874,000 and payments of other salaries and wages in excess of $2.19 million.

The 2011 tax return reflected the same amount of 2012 consultant fees ($146,000.00); rental revenues exceeding $5.1 million; total revenues in excess of $8.67 million; compensation of officers of $852,000.00 and payments of other salaries and benefits of over $2 million.

ask-questions-answersA Biomed official did call requesting a meeting to explain operations, the foundation’s mission and the proposal tax renewal. When pressed to send hard information versus a personal sales pitch, the spokesman was less than enthusiastic especially with specific information on rentals paid by specific tenants. A sample listing of tenants, which seemingly are not related to the Biomed goals, include Blade Studios; LA House of Props, McDonald Lighting Supply, Moonbot Studios, and Woodshapers. More info was provided by the spokesman, and a future column will review Biomed operations.

As for now, the Biomed tax renewal is another tax – even if “only” $4 per $100,000.00 household value – that puts Caddo property owners as the highest taxed in Louisiana. Somewhere, somehow, – Caddo taxpayers must draw the line, and the May tax vote may provide just that opportunity.