In The News › Newly elected Williams looking for more efficient assessor’s office

Feb 18, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Newly elected Williams looking for more efficient assessor’s office

Thursday, February 18, 2010
By Bigad Shaban
Eyewitness News, WWLTV

NEW ORLEANS — There are seven different people in New Orleans in charge of deciding how much or how little you pay in property taxes.

Four years ago, however, voters opted to change that, shifting the responsibility to just one person. An upcoming election was supposed to decide who gets the job, but a recent surprise changed all that.

Erroll Williams, now one of seven tax assessors in New Orleans, is on his way to become the only one. He’ll be responsible for deciding the value of your home and just how much you should have to pay up in property taxes.

His run-off election for the newly created single assessor position was set for March 6, but his only opponent, Claude Mauberret, the current 2nd District assessor, dropped out.

“The reality is that the numbers are just not there for me to justify asking my family, friends, and supporters to put forth the kind of effort required to win,” said Mauberret in a statement. “I fear that others would cast this election in racial terms and try to divide our citizens.”

“Given the fact that Williams beat [Mauberret] two to one in the primary, he probably just read the tea leaves and decided to get out,” said Dr. Ed Chervenak, political scientist at the University of New Orleans.

Come January 1, 2011, the six other assessor positions and their staff will be eliminated.

“What we will do before that is to sit down and try and match the skill sets of those people who currently work in the assessor’s office, who have experience, and try and make sure that we hire those people that will contribute to us building a stronger and more efficient assessor staff,” said Williams.

The current 3rd District assessor does acknowledge he was against going to the single assessor system.

“From a practical side, the people lose,” said Williams. “They now don’t have a one-to-one relationship with the person that they elect to office that determines how much taxes they pay.”

Janet Howard, head of the New Orleans based Bureau of Governmental Research, said there is concern over how Williams will build the new office and whether he’ll use current assessors. The existing seven assessor model, which dates back to the 1870s, has established a sort of coziness between the public and assessors, according to Howard.

“I mean that’s just an invitation for corruption,” said Howard. “An invitation for inequity, also.”

When asked how he would reply to those urging him to steer clear of hiring current assessors, Williams said, “that’s the outside trying to dictate what I should be doing. I think I have a good appreciation and a 31-year record of managing and evaluating the talents of the people that work for me.”

Williams said he’s spoken with Mauberret, 1st District Assessor Darren Mire, and 6th District Deputy Assessor Janis Lemlee about possibly working in his office.

Political pundits say while voters may want reform, they’re also looking for experience.

“The irony is that in the runoff we had two current assessors,” said Dr. Silas Lee, political pollster. “What voters are looking for — accountability, customer service, and accurate assessments.”

And if done right, said Chervenak, the payout should get back to the pockets of taxpayers.

“Hopefully, we’ll get fair and more equitable assessments and evaluations of properties,” said Chervenak. “In that sense, then we could probably rollback the mileages and lower taxes.”

Feb 18, 2010

Source: WWLTV

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

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