Livingston may boost funding for Juban Crossing project

The Livingston Parish Council decided Thursday to consider a proposed ordinance to increase the parish’s sales tax contribution to the long-delayed Juban Crossing project.

In June 2007, the council approved using 40 percent of its three-fourth-cent road sales tax collected within the development for road work in the development district, located north of Interstate 12 between Denham Springs and Walker.

The ordinance submitted to the council Thursday would increase that contribution to 100 percent to partially offset the loss of state sales tax funds approved by the state Legislature but vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal.

The ordinance is scheduled for public hearing July 25.

Councilman Chance Parent cast the lone vote against the introduction of the measure, saying he is not against the project but believes 40 percent of the road tax proceeds collected in the district should be enough.

Livingston Parish Drainage District No. 1 board members balked at a similar request Tuesday night, declining even to take up a proposed ordinance to increase their contribution from 40 percent to 100 percent of a half-cent drainage sales tax within the development district.

Scott Crawford, an attorney representing developer Creekstone Companies, said the increased contribution rates are necessary to move the project forward.

If both contributions are not increased, the development will face a $10 million deficit in phase one alone, Crawford said.

Council Chairman Marshall Harris said supporting the deal is “a no-brainer.”

The parish’s budget — like the budgets of other parish agencies, fire departments and recreation districts — is based primarily on ad valorem taxes. The road sales tax can be used only for road improvements, but the gain in ad valorem taxes from the property’s development will provide a much-needed boost to the parish’s general fund, Harris said.

“This is a great opportunity to take the burden off the homeowner and shift the burden of taxes this parish is run on,” Harris said.

In addition to the road tax, the Parish Council previously approved 2 cents in additional sales tax within Juban Crossing, bringing the rate there to 10.5 percent, the highest in the parish.

Other business coming before the council included:

RIVERSIDE DEVELOPMENT: The council approved an ordinance creating the Riverside Economic Development District across the street from Bass Pro Shops in Denham Springs. The move paves the way for the project to seek tax increment financing like that of Bass Pro and Juban Crossing.

Riverside’s developers said in April they would seek a new 1-cent sales tax within the 19-acre district, plus 40 percent of the parish’s road and drainage sales tax receipts collected within the development.

The project calls for 150,000 square feet of new retail development in two phases and would create about 400 permanent and 95 construction jobs, developers said.