The $1 Billion Question Revisited

(Opinion) Newell: Compromise, co-operation can’t be dirty words as Mayor, Council grapple with tax relief measure

By Newell Normand

Source: WWL Radio

November 20, 2019

The City Council has made a request to cut tax rates for property owners, and an agreement is under consideration. The plan is to move some individual millages around to prioritize infrastructure and public safety dollars over areas of less concern. Newell asked Councilmembers Joe Giarrusso and Jared Brossett to shed some light on the effects of rolling millages and realignments in the tax structure.

“In a reassessment year,” Newell began, “When values go up, you have to roll back, by law, the amount of the mills you charge to only collect what you collected prior to the reassessment. Then you have to take a vote to roll forward if you want to have the benefit of the increased assessment to back to your original millage rate so you’d collect more tax dollars – right?”

“That is correct,” Brossett answered. “It has been a long process, being that it is a quadrennial reassessment year. You have, as it relates to taxes and your overall tax bills, your millage rates, and your assessments. The appeal process for the assessments has passed as of October 16, which saw a 13% decrease in the assessments, and we certified those on to the Louisiana Tax Commission… we saw the three mills failed this past Saturday, so Councilmember Giarrusso, who is on the budget committee with me, he had an idea to look at the millages and reallocate them, looking to make some changes and place priority on public safety and infrastructure. That’s our Sewerage and Water Board and our police and fire.

“A lot of people saw their assessments rise dramatically,” Giarrusso said. “Not just a little bit – mine personally went up 44%. That’s sticker shock for a lot of people and even with the overall increase across the city, if you went up by more than 15% you’re going to pay more taxes no matter what anybody does. People want to see services, they want to see the return on their dollar. For Jared and me, living so close to Jefferson Parish, we have so many people who say look, we see it there, we love New Orleans, we want to be here, but if you price us out, we’re going to have to look elsewhere. So what we did was look at the numbers and said, how can you reallocate in a way that puts those most critical most public services first while also not raising taxes?”

“So the plan is coming to be to roll forward the millages dedicated to these basic services, and roll back some of the other services that are not as necessitous. Create that balance, and the net effect is the same and then more dollars go to infrastructure,” Newell said. “I made this observation prior to the election – we had a ballot proposition about the funding and creation of a Human Rights Commission, not that it’s not needed. But my observation was simply this – you have the EEOC, you have a Human Rights Commission with the state, you have a duplication of services. Yeah, we like to control our own stuff and have our own self-identity, I get all that. But when you talk about basic services that can’t be provided, the prioritization has to be on the basic stuff and forget everything else. If somebody else provides that, yeah it would be nice if we had a say so in it, but it’s not necessary. We’re not going to get huge chunks of money in any one particular spot, am I wrong on that?”

“Blocking and tackling has to come first, and in this case, that’s public safety, infrastructure and drainage,” Giarrusso said.

“The citizens expect those basic services that are the pillars of municipal government. What we’ve been focusing on is bringing relief to the citizens and trying not to roll forward any tax increase, and also making sure these other taxing authorities that we have say so over, seeing that they spend their reserves down,” Brossett agreed.

Hear the entire interview in the audio player below. (BGR mentioned at about 5:40)


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