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City Council Votes Down Two Tax Breaks For Folgers, Postpones Vote On Four More

Folgers Coffee, which operates along the Industrial Canal, is by far the greatest recipient of tax breaks through the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.

New Orleans City Council voted Thursday to defer most of its votes on the Folgers Coffee Company’s tax exemption applications to a future meeting in January 2021.

Newly appointed City Council President Helena Moreno pushed for council members to vote on six of the industrial tax exemptions that Folgers applied for through Louisiana’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), which gives companies breaks on up to 80 percent of their taxes for up to 10 years. Folgers is seeking exemptions that could total roughly $25 million over a decade.

“To me these tax exemptions are just not worth it,” Moreno said in session.

Councilmember Cindy Nguyen, who represents New Orleans East, where the Folgers plants are located, proposed that the council defer its vote on all six of the items until January. Nguyen and Councilmember Jay Banks said the council needed more information before it could vote on the applications.

In the end, due to a suggestion from Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer to vote on the two ITEP items concerning taxes for 2019, the council voted to reject the two exemptions.

As a compromise, it chose to defer voting on the four applications regarding taxes for 2017 and 2018 until next year.

"We are disappointed in the decision to not approve our 2019 applications for tax incentives and the negative impact this will have on our investment plans for our New Orleans facility moving forward,” Ray Hancart, director of communication and media relations for Folgers parent company J.M. Smucker, said in an emailed statement.

The statement offered support for the council’s decision to defer its vote on the other items.

“It is critically important City Council has accurate information and sufficient time to analyze all relevant details as they evaluate these applications,” the statement read.

The tax exemptions that Folgers is seeking are for construction projects that have already been completed or are under construction. Moreno noted that none of the projects meet the district’s job-creating requirement of 15 jobs paying $18 an hour or more.

The City Council also unanimously voted that any extra revenue that the city would receive by turning down the Folgers ITEP applications be used to address the recently announced furloughs of city employees, particularly those working in public safety, like police officers, emergency medical service providers and firefighters.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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