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Amendment Number Five will hurt our local schools

Hello River Parish Residents or unfortunately and more accurately, I must refer to residents in our community as residents of “Cancer Alley”. While all focus is on National Elections and rightfully so, our community must be compelled to extend that focus to local elections.

During the pandemic, the Louisiana Legislators held their sessions in Baton Rouge where Lobbyists were granted the opportunity to push an amendment on the ballot allowing Industrial Oil Companies to be exempt from paying property taxes. This exemption would be infinite and has once again brought the issue of an ad valorem tax exemption to the people for a vote.

Several years ago, Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill to allow local school boards, parish governing bodies and Sheriffs some autonomy in the decision to allow or afford exemptions for the oil companies in their parishes. This decision was met with appreciation and gratitude by elected officials as it gave local entities a voice in what it deemed equitable and fair.

Subsequently, since then, these companies have continued to oppose the Governor’s order and fought to revert back to doing business the old way. This is quite contradictory to the mantra of these company claims of wanting to be good neighbors.

Although no definitive study has been conducted as of yet, there is a persistent probability of a direct correlation of those who reside in areas commonly refer to as “Cancer Alley ” and their susceptibility to contracting COVID-19. Coincidentally, those, close in proximity, who did contract COVID-19 were greatly affected by the symptoms of this virus as documented by their medical records showing ailments that they have battled for years as predicated by the amount of pollutants that these companies continuously spill or emit in the air daily.

Unfortunately, these indisputable statistics concerning how these emissions have had everlasting negative impacts on the health of those in our area and the irony of allowing them to be exempt from paying their fair share of property taxes is unacceptable. If they aren’t required to pay taxes, why should any resident?

If everyone and every industry is exempt, then who will fund pubic education, repairing public streets and public services? Additionally, who will fund our police department? The answer is, without requiring the oil industries to pay their share, the residents will see increases in their property taxes; while, ironically, these companies show revenues in excess of billons of dollars. Therefore, it is incumbent upon them to meet the same tax requirements as all residents. These dollars can allow us to have a better quality of life by the companies that continually pollute our air and hire individuals from outside of our parish. We deserve better than this.

Vote No for Amendment 5.

Ali Burl, III is a member of St. John the Baptist School Board, District 2.