In The News › Opinion: Assessor must cut ties with past

Feb 26, 2010

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Opinion: Assessor must cut ties with past

Friday, February 26, 2010
By CityBusiness Commentary

It was with a loud, clear voice that voters spoke in November 2006 when they voted for a change to the state constitution to consolidate New Orleans’ seven assessment districts into one and place a single assessor in charge of property valuations for taxing purposes.

In the race for that sole seat, Erroll Williams, the former 3rd District assessor who opposed consolidation, earned 45 percent of the vote in the Feb. 6 primary. He avoided a runoff when 2nd District Assessor Claude Mauberret backed out of the race.

But recent statements from Williams demonstrate an intent to preserve the legacy of the separate assessment districts, or at least keep his office tethered to the perception that unfair and inefficient practices will persist.

In doing so, Williams would not only contradict “the will of the people,” as he referred to the results of the 2006 vote, he would also be going back on a campaign promise.

Before the Feb. 6 primary, Williams agreed to portions of a platform put forth by Forward New Orleans, a coalition of more than 30 business, civic and community groups that evaluated candidates for assessor, City Council and the mayor’s race.

Williams concurred with FNO’s accountability and consistency standards and its best practices recommendations. Among them was a promise not to hire any of the current elected district assessors.
Last month, Williams told WWL-TV that he had talked to Mauberret and 1st District Assessor Darren Mire about coming to work for his office.

Preserving any ties to a clearly broken system is so patently wrong that it is baffling that it needs to be pointed out on paper. But it only hammers home the issue.

In a Nov. 30 report (”Hidden Values,” by Richard A. Webster), CityBusiness told the story of five French Quarter properties in Mauberret’s district with values that had been under-assessed by $21 million, resulting in a $500,000 annual loss in tax revenues. This was in addition to Mauberret’s questionable $3.76 million assessment of the W Hotel, a property that sold for $21.3 million in 2006. Its undervaluing produces a tax shortfall of more than $342,000 a year.

Mauberret defends the value, attributing it to an inter-company transaction. Worth noting is the most recent comparable sale was that of the Windsor Court, which changed hands for $44.3 million in October.

Speaking at a Bureau of Governmental Research breakfast Tuesday, Williams defended Mauberret’s assessment of the W Hotel, adding more fuel to the speculation that the outgoing 2nd District assessor would have a place in Williams’ office.

The history lesson is ongoing. Virtually anyone who has owned property in New Orleans going back five years or more has a horror story to tell about disparities between their tax bill and their neighbors’ or comparable property in another part of town.

Williams is an intelligent man capable of taking the Orleans Assessor’s Office into the 21st century. But if he chooses to retain former district assessors, it would mean he’s intent on keeping the city bogged down in its problematic past.

It’s time to honor the will of the voters and the spirit of the law.

Feb 26, 2010

Source: CityBusiness

Filed under: Orleans Parish, Taxation & Assessments

Fair Use Notice

This site occasionally reprints copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We make such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of issues and to highlight the accomplishments of our affiliates. We believe this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is available without profit. For more information go to: US CODE: Title 17,107. Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.