The Vernon Parish School Board will be asked at its Tuesday meeting approve an industrial tax exemption for Champion Homes, which is scheduled to locate in the industrial park in Leesville.

The Police Jury and the Sheriff’s Department have already signed off on the exemption plan.

This is the first time the parish entities have had a say in whether to grant the exemption. Heretofore, the exemption was granted at the state level, with no local voice in the matter. 

By executive order, Gov. John Bel Edwards has changed the procedure. It was reviewed for the board at Thursday’s agenda-setting meeting by Jim Clinton, president of the Central Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, which includes Vernon.

“There is no precedent for this being in front of you,” Clinton noted. He said CLEDA is also asking that the board establish policy for meeting such requests by new and/or expanded manufacturing opportunities in the future. That policy request is also on the Tuesday agenda.

Formerly, 100 per cent industrial tax exemptions were granted by the state for five years, then ordinarily renewed for five years. 

Under the Edwards plan now in effect, the first five years is 100 percent exemption and renewal is for three years, at 80 per cent exemption. “In other words,” Clinton noted, government begins collecting some ad valorem tax in the sixth year, and 100 per cent after eight years, rather than none for 10 years.”

Champion, which manufactures housing, last month announced plans to make a $1.5 million capital investment in a Vernon facility. 

Its projection is that it will provide 200 new jobs by 2021, with a $7.2 million payroll. The firm estimates it will create 40 new jobs next year and 130 in 2019.

Board member Vernon Travis, Jr. asked what guarantees the board has that Champion will meet its performance requirements.

“You have the ability to cancel or re-negotiate terms of the exemption agreement if a firm doesn’t meet them,” Clinton said.

Manufacturers granted an exemption are required to provide an annual report relative to the performance agreements. That report to the state will be shared with the parish agencies.

Board member David Dietz asked how much the board would be foregoing in tax revenue by granting the exemption.

 Clinton said that is hard to say at this point. He noted the investment schedule calls for $1.3 million in capital improvements to be completed by 2019.

Also on the Tuesday agenda will be a report on the energy conservation program and a final resolution on a bond refunding.