In The News › Blanco pushing N.O. assessor reform

Oct 24, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

Blanco pushing N.O. assessor reform

Blanco pushing N.O. assessor reform
If amendment fails, issue might resurface
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
By Ed Anderson
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE — Gov. Kathleen Blanco on Monday urged voters to approve a proposed constitutional amendment to reduce the number of assessors in New Orleans from seven to one, saying that even if it fails, the issue might not be dead.

Blanco, flanked by backers of Constitutional Amendment No. 7 on the Nov. 7 ballot, said she will “be happy to use my voice or presence when necessary” to campaign for its passage. Backers said they would like Blanco to cut a radio or TV ad in what they said will be a $400,000-plus statewide campaign to get the amendment approved.

Legislative approval of proposed amendment was one of the major accomplishments Blanco claimed after last summer’s regular session. The measure must pass statewide and in Orleans Parish to be approved. Orleans is the only parish in the state with more than one assessor.

If the measure fails, Blanco said that “we would regroup and analyze what happened; it may be possible to do it” again.

Sen. Ann Duplessis, D-New Orleans, the lead Senate sponsor of the proposal, said that if it fails, she might return with another attempt to reduce the number of assessors in the April legislative session or possibly take another tack: Require that officials assess property in New Orleans in keeping with a “consistent model,” eliminating the political power the assessors now have to reduce property taxes or assessment levels at the request of homeowners.

Ruthie Frierson, chairwoman of the grass-roots organization known as Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, called the vote on the proposal a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Blanco said the measure is important to the state because the expense of running one assessor’s office is less than running seven and consolidation will reduce political assessment practices and generate more money for the city. More money generated for Orleans Parish will result in fewer requests from New Orleans for state money for schools and other local needs, Blanco said.

“What is good in the rest of the state (with each parish having one assessor) should work for New Orleans as well,” Blanco said. The governor said that in the post-Hurricane Katrina era, a downsized New Orleans government is a must. She said a constitutional change that passed in September to replace several politically oriented Louisiana levee boards with two professional boards and the merger of the two court systems in New Orleans into one starting in 2009 are signs that New Orleans is ready for more government overhaul.

Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, an independent government watchdog agency, said consolidating the assessor offices will save at least $540,000 a year and result in a “fair and equitable tax system. . . . It will not happen without doing this.”

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Ed Anderson can be reached at eanderson@timespicayune.com or (225) 342-5810.

Oct 24, 2006

Source: Times-Picayune

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