It’s not often that Livingston Parish would feel the effect of a decision by the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, but a vote against one of the state’s biggest industrial entities could have far-reaching effects.
The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board on Jan. 16 rejected a request from ExxonMobil for a $2.9 million per year tax break over the next 10 years. The board nixed the request in hopes to pad the coffers of a cash-strapped school system. The decision could have a far-reaching effect on the economy and employment picture not only for East Baton Rouge Parish, also for the entire southern region of the state.
The move may seem strategic for the school system, but it’s more like a game of economic Russian roulette.
It’s not the typical member of the industrial community. The 110-year-old refinery is the largest in Louisiana, fourth-largest in the United States and 12th largest in the world.
The refinery has a capacity of more than 500,000 barrels of oil a day. Its payroll includes 4,000 workers employed through ExxonMobil, and an additional 2,300 contract workers.
Imagine the effect the state would feel now that ExxonMobil withdrew request for the Industrial Tax Exemption Program.
Executives for ExxonMobil have already said they plan to re-evaluate future expansion at the plant. As time goes on, they could also curtail production in different units at the refinery.
They could move production to the Houston suburb of Baytown, Texas, or one of its other domestic refineries.
The vote by the School Board represents a move that could create a ripple effect throughout the greater Baton Rouge area, for entities that provide support services for the refinery and for Louisiana, as a whole.
It’s hard to fathom that ExxonMobil would cease operations altogether in the Baton Rouge area, but any move means less production, fewer expansion projects and – most importantly – a reduction in the workforce could have a far-reaching effect, including here in Livingston Parish.
The effects of one decision by a neighboring School Board could extend far beyond the borders of just one parish. The EBR decision stands to cause immeasurable hardship, all which could have been avoided.