Letter to the Editor: Jay Sharplin

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Dear Natchitoches Taxpayer:

A magician makes you look right when the illusion is to left.  Then the big reveal happens and you are sitting there “how did he pull this off.”  Its called sleight of hand, skillful deception, chicanery,  trickery, it has many names.

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On Thursday an amended city council agenda was posted. On it, Ordinance Number 23 will be reintroduced for City Council vote today.  To recap, Ordinance 23 raises sales tax on those business in Natchitoches Economic District C (I-49).  This ordinance also includes a use tax on those business as well.  From my understanding , No changes were made in the language, and quoting Councilman Dale Nielsen from a Natchtioches Times article dated July 12, 2019, “the train ran off the track.” He acknowledged that there were valid concerns and questions. “We need to regroup on the sale and use tax…take a deep breath. We’re all family and somehow we’ll make this work for everyone.” Very insightful words by Councilman Nielson, but, what is different now than when the council voted 5 to 0 to table the mayor’s proposal?

There is one thing… Just as when Toto pulled the curtain back on the Great Oz.  I will attempt to explain the dupe the Mayor is attempting on the Natchitoches citizens.   Ordinance #40-  Authorizing  The Mayor Of The City Of Natchitoches, Louisiana, To Enter Into A Cooperative Endeavor Agreement With Northwestern State University, Providing For The Sharing Of A One Percent Sales Tax In The Natchitoches Economic Development District C, Further Providing For Severability, And Further Providing For A Repealer And Effective Date Of Ordinance.

You may ask, what is Ordinance 40?  This is the mayors attempt to divert attention away from the additional TIF tax and at the same time build human shield using Northwestern State University.

A couple of very important points that must be noted.

1.  NSU did not and I repeat, did not go to the mayor and ask for this tax money From the June 14, 2019 Natchitoches TIMES article, Sales tax controversy: Lets get the facts straight,  Mayor Posey is quoted in question/answer # 3.

The funds generated from the tax will be split 50/50 between Natchitoches and NSU. “They will get half and we will get half. That will generate about $250,000 annually to split between the two entities,” he said. None of the tax revenue can be put into the City’s general fund. Posey said the money from the sales tax can only be used to fund economic development for the area, which would include maintenance and operations at the complex.  “We’re all on the same page. They benefit, we benefit and we help each other.  We will enter into a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement.”

2.  According to a Public Records Request provided by the City of Natchitoches, nowhere was it written had TIF collection money going to NSU.  It was never intended for NSU to get any money the first time Ordinance 23 was proposed on June 11, 2019.  For the next four days, there was radio silence from the Mayors office. (Remember the KTBS report, “the mayor isn’t talking”?)

Only during on June 14, Natchitoches Times interview, does NSU come up.  But once again, according to Public Records Request, the ordinance stayed exactly the same (no NSU money) when brought back to city council and tabled in July. I don’t blame NSU for accepting this generous donation from the mayor.

I know first hand the challenges and realize how difficult could be to say no.  Remember they did not ask for this.  What Mayor Posey is hoping for is that an argument against the proposed sales tax is an argument against NSU.  And that my friends is not the case here.  Those tempted to go into the Council meeting and attack NSU is exactly what City Govt wants.

The Mayor’s clever diversion using NSU takes all eyes off of the unfairness of the proposed TIF tax,  the unfairness of the exposed use tax,  what the current 2% TIF tax is being spent on, and most important to me, Mayor Posey continuing to ignore the back taxes owed to our city, but asking for a new tax.

Voting for statewide office is coming in a few short days, but  I think its safe to say the vote of the council tonight will be the start of citywide election season in March.

We demand the truth and transparency from our local government,  please leave the trickery to David Copperfield.

Jay Sharplin

Sharpco Hotels Group