St. Helena urged to back tax

Washington Parish Councilman Mike Fussell stopped in St. Helena Parish on Tuesday to seek support for a proposed severance tax on sand and gravel taken from parish pits.

Fussell, who said he plans to visit all police juries in Region 6 to gain backing for the tax, extended an invitation to the St. Helena Parish Police Jury to engage in a joint resolution regarding local natural resources.

The partnership would work toward state approval to earn revenues on nonrenewable products, such as sand, gravel and sub soils, like top soil, mined in the area, he said.

“There’s no severance tax on gravel right now; it was voted off in 1997, and we feel like it needs to be back on,” Fussell said. “We want to collect some type of money on our non-renewable resources. If (the resource) leaves this parish, severance money needs to come back to this parish.”

Fussell said resources are taken from southeast Louisiana, but the parishes get nothing in return. He said sand and gravel, for example, are needed to mix cement, but the point of sale for the concrete is seldom the parish where the materials to create the final product were generated.

St. Helena is the second police jury Fussell has approached, he said, following Tangipahoa Parish on Monday. Fussell said he is going to visit all of the police juries in Region 6 before the annual Louisiana Police Jury Association convention in February, when he plans to unveil his tax resolution.

Fussell is asking all of the juries to support the resolution and to suggest a price for the tax by the end of January. The tax would likely be levied by tonnage, he said, noting the average price per ton of sand is about six cents, while gravel is a “hot commodity” and can range from 10 to 20 cents per ton. He said all tax prices are negotiable.

“There’s a lot of opportunity for revenue to come back to our parishes,” he said. “We’re all hurting in our general fund.”

If Fussell gains support, the tax must get the OK from state legislators before it is imposed by the respective parishes.

“There’s been a lot of talk in parish … and we’ve got some momentum,” he said. “We just need to keep it going. There will be opposition, but we think it’s only right.”

Lumber is currently taxed, Fussell said, but it is a renewable resource. There are no taxes on sand or gravel, which he stressed are two nonrenewable resources.

“I can plant another tree if one is taken,” Fussell said. “If I could plant another rock, I would.”

The jurors agreed to review the resolution and contact Fussell regarding the price it recommends to charge per ton.