Favoritism hurts small business and homeowners

Big Industry and public service properties assessed at only 2% of fair market value

Special to the Herald-Guide
August 29, 2007 at 1:21 pm  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Rock Gisclair, Assessor

For the past 50 years, the Louisiana Tax Commission was a grandfather, laissez-faire type of commission. Assessors do what you want with the homeowners as long as you don't complain about big industry and public service properties.

We now have a governor and tax commission who insist that homeowners be placed on the tax roll at fair market value. I don't know of one assessor that would object to that. However, oil and gas properties, public utility properties, and grain elevator properties are on the St. Charles Parish tax roll for less than fair market value.

If you were assessor, would you place a homeowner or a small business owner on your tax roll at fair market value if you know that large industrial properties are assessed at 2% or 3% of fair market value? Some public service properties are not even on the tax roll. Railcars, in 2001, were reduced in value by $1.7 million from the St. Charles Parish tax rolls by the Louisiana Tax Commission.

Remember, public service properties are assessed by the Louisiana Tax Commission - a board appointed by the governor. The commission also supervises assessors to make certain assessments are fair and equitable.

However, the following chart will show you that while the assessor is forced to value your home properly, the Louisiana Tax Commission's public service properties are severely undervalued.

For example, the assessed value of public service properties in St. Charles Parish from 1996 to 2006 was reduced by $55 million dollars. Public service properties include airlines, pipelines, oil and gas properties, barge lines, electric utilities, railcars, railroad property, and telephone companies - all assessed by appointed officials. However, as assessed values of public properties fell, the value of your homes was raised (appreciated) to $100 million dollars from 1996 to 2006.

When an elected official (tax assessor) knows that certain types of property such as public services that are assessed by the Louisiana Tax Commission are receiving favorable treatment from an appointed official (commission appointed by the governor) in his or her local jurisdiction, there is a tendency to under-assess all properties in order to maximize tax benefits to all taxpayers.




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