In The News › Editorial: Overcharging for tax data

Dec 17, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Editorial: Overcharging for tax data

Friday, December 17, 2010
The Times-Picayune

New Orleanians have had to push most city assessors toward more equitable and fair assessments — and the Bureau of Governmental Research has played an important role in championing reform.

The non-profit, independent watchdog helped expose severe inequities in the city’s tax rolls in the past and now wants to analyze the 2010 tax roll. But the Board of Assessors is trying to block the effort by asking for an exorbitant fee for the information. The board is in likely violation of the public records law and needs to release the data at a reasonable cost.

BGR requested the tax roll in electronic form in March. That would only require the assessors to run a report in their database and burn the information onto a CD. Yet the assessors asked BGR to pay $12,775 for the data. That’s ridiculous. The assessors later lowered the price to $4,525, but that’s still unreasonable.

So BGR this week sued the Board of Assessors. The court should order the assessors to release the data, which is public information, at an appropriate cost.

The public records law allows for “reasonable fees for making copies of public records.” But courts have ruled the charges can’t include the original cost of generating the information. Other assessors understand this. BGR said East Baton Rouge Parish charges $200 for an electronic copy of its tax rolls. Calcasieu Parish, which includes Lake Charles, charges $125, and Lafayette Parish charges only $20. These are reasonable fees.

The intransigence of New Orleans’ assessors leaves the impression that they’re trying to hide something. That attitude is part of the reason voters in 2006 decided to get rid of the seven-assessor structure. Erroll Williams, the 3rd district assessor, was elected this year to become the new citywide assessor in 2011. Mr. Williams ran on promises of transparency and accountability. He needs to live up to that pledge by pushing the Board of Assessors to release the tax roll at a reasonable cost.

Dec 17, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

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