Assessor appeals injunction keeping FOLGER’S ITE rejected properties off tax roll

The Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office today filed an application for supervisory writ of review in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in a continued effort to place six Folger properties on the Orleans Parish tax roll.

Folger Coffee Company applied for Industrial Tax Exemptions (ITEs) on six now-completed properties. The applications for the exemptions were rejected by the New Orleans City Council, Orleans Parish School Board and then-Sheriff Marlin Gusman in early 2021.

The Assessor’s Office received official notice of the Board of Commerce and Industry’s denial from Louisiana Economic Development in March 2022. With notice of final denial provided, the Assessor’s Office began the process to place the six Folger properties on the supplemental tax rolls for years 2019, 2020, 2021 and the current 2022 tax year.

The total assessed value to be added retroactively is 35,450,500, for a tax liability of $5,107,572, due once the changes are processed.

Folger provided the Assessor’s Office notice it intended to contest the addition of these properties to the supplemental tax roll within the required 10-day period. On May 9, 2022, the Assessor’s Office was served a lawsuit from Folger protesting the “correctness and/or legality of such supplemental assessments.”

While this suit is still pending, the Assessor’s Office proceeded with the supplemental tax rolls and submitted them to the Louisiana Tax Commission in accordance with LTC Statewide Advisory 02-2021 Re: Change Order Requests and LA RS 47:1966 on October 13, 2022. The Tax Commission was scheduled to approve the supplemental rolls on October 26, 2022, but Folger asked the Tax Commission to delay acting on these items so that Folger could have time to seek a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against the Tax Commission to prevent the Tax Commission from approving the supplemental rolls. The Tax Commission accepted Folger’s request and deferred action on the supplemental roll.

After learning of the delay, on November 1, 2022 the Assessor’s Office filed a petition for writ of mandamus against the Tax Commission, asking the court to issue an order directing the Tax Commission to approve the supplemental rolls without any further delay. The Tax Commission has publicly agreed that these tax rolls should be approved, but nevertheless chose to disregard its ministerial duty in order to appease Folger.

The Tax Commission then gave Folger written permission to obtain the TRO without opposition or the need for a hearing. On November 2, 2022, Folger filed a separate suit against the Tax Commission for a TRO/preliminary injunction. Based on the Tax Commission’s permission, the TRO was granted by Judge Omar Mason on November 2, 2022. The Assessor’s Office filed a petition to intervene on November 3, 2022, and motion to dissolve the TRO on November 4, 2022.

The hearing to dissolve the TRO took place November 9, 2022, and Judge Mason ruled to uphold the TRO. The hearing on the preliminary injunction was held on Thursday, November 17, 2022, and Judge Mason again ruled in favor of Folger, extending the preliminary injunction until March 16, 2023.

The application for supervisory writ submitted today to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal seeks to dissolve the preliminary injunction on the grounds that non-exempt property, by constitutional mandate, must be placed on the taxable rolls.

“We are incredibly disappointed in Judge Mason’s ruling,” said Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams. “Folger’s six applications were denied in accordance with Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry rules. They are only delaying the inevitable: these investments are taxable and they should pay their fair share like everyone else does.”