LaSalle Parish tax bodies will receive $3,507,326 as its part of a $68.8 million settlement of a longrunning dispute between three natural gas pipeline companies and 52 Louisiana parish tax assessors.
The share LaSalle Parish taxing bodies will receive is the fifth highest among the 52 parishes to receive funds through the settlement.
The three pipeline companies paid $3,591,794 to LaSalle Parish tax bodies under protest and agreed to settle the suit for a settlement refund of $84,467.
Altogether, the companies paid about $72.3 million under protest and will receive $3.5 million of that amount under terms of the settlement, or about five percent. The money paid under protest to the parishes has been held in escrow by the sheriff in each parish while the dispute made its way through the courts.
The amount in question involves the tax years 2004 through 2010, but the dispute actually began between the pipeline companies and local assessors ten years earlier, in 1994.
In October of 2011, a settlement was reached for the disputed tax assessments from 1994 through 2003 but the pipeline companies – ANR Pipeline, Southern National Gas Co. and Tennessee Gas Pipeline – continued to protest assessments from 2004 through 2010.
The pipeline companies filed a spat of suits against the Louisiana Tax Commission in 1994, which were consolidated into a single action in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge. In their suits, the pipeline companies claimed they were treated unfairly because they were charged higher property taxes than were instate companies.
Out-of-state companies are assessed at 25 percent of fair market value while in-state pipelines are assessed at 15 percent. Out-of-state companies are assessed at the higher rate because they are considered public service properties.
Baton Rouge attorney Brian Eddington, who represented the parishes, singled out three assessors as being instrumental in the decision to defend against the companies’ litigation.
“Jimmy Dean, who retired as La- Salle Parish assessor after 32 years, Catahoula Parish Assessor Carmon Walker and Morehouse Assessor Mike Wooden were the ones who decided early on that we should stand up against the pipeline companies,” Eddington said.
“Some felt it was just too steep a hill to climb to go up against those guys,” he said.
Cameron Parish was the big winner, receiving slightly more than $7.9 million with the pipeline companies splitting a refund of $241,000 of the $8.1 million paid under protest in that parish.
The $82.96 received by Pointe Coupee Parish represented the lowest amount received by any of the 52 parishes involved in the lengthy litigation.
Don Moses, Chief Tax Collector for the LaSalle Parish Sheriff’s Office said Monday morning that he is awaiting official court documents before beginning the process of figuring out how much each taxing body in the parish will receive.
“I should have the orders in the next day or two, and should have figures for each body ready by the end of the week,” he said.
Under law, the Sheriff holds taxes paid under protest in a special account until direct orders are received on how to disburse the funds.