St. Charles Parish homeowners will pay the price for overly generous industrial tax exemptions granted by the state, parish Assessor Clyde "Rock" Gisclair, above, said in a report to the parish council.
“Someone is going to have to pay and I’ll tell you who it’s going to be - the homeowners and the small business owners,” Gisclair told the Herald-Guide in an exclusive interview after the meeting.
In council chambers, before a smatter- ing of concerned citizens, Gisclair said parish assessors have been criticized for not correctly valuing homeowners' properties.
But “the governor, industrial lobbyists and news columnists have failed to mention the abuses in the 10-year exemption program, the public utility property assessment and the complete failure of the Louisiana Tax Commission," he said in an address he called, "Thoughts on a Broken Tax System."
“The only taxpayers who are equally and uniformly assessed are homeowners and small business owners and this is completely unfair.”
Gisclair alleged that the state Board of Commerce and Industry is improperly giving 10-year tax exemptions to businesses that are not manufacturers.
He also criticized the Louisiana Tax Commission for improperly assessing public utilities.
Those include railroads, pipelines and Entergy Louisiana's four power plants in the parish, he said.
“No public service property, airlines, public utilities, barge lines, pipelines, railroads, or telephone companies should be receiving a 10-year manufacturing tax exemption; it’s unconstitutional” Gisclair continued.
The Tax Commission, appointed by the governor, is considering Gisclair's appeal of the valuation of the power plants.
Waterford 3 nuclear plant in Taft is one of them.
Gisclair contends the plant is filing for tax exempt status under the terms of Article VII, Section 21(F) of the Louisiana Constitution.
“Understand that when millions and billions of dollars in assests are depreciated from the tax roll, someone else must pay for those public services,” Gisclair said.
“These public services are provided to residents of St. Charles Parish homeowners, and small businesses shouldn’t bear the burden for tax-exempt properties,”
Gisclair said the percentage of large industrial property on the St. Charles tax roll has dropped from 48.5 percent in 2003 to 45.9 percent in 2004.
He attributed that to “improper exemptions and assessments.” Public utilities have dropped from 31.4 percent to 29.6 percent, he said.
In the same time frame, the percentage of commercial property rose by 1.9 percent. The percentage of residential property taxes rose by 2.5 percent.
"Something is wrong with those numbers," he said. "Over the past 20 years, $3.9 billion of fair market value has disappeared from our tax rolls."
Gisclair said he believes that homeowner values will continue to climb in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, adding that Tax Commission auditors are in his office "almost every week" to ensure that homes won't be undervalued in 2008.
"My insurance company beat you to the punch. They added 30 percent to my property value and raised my rates," Councilman Clayton "Snookie" Faucheux said.
Faucheux said capping the property assessment coming up could help bring homeowners some relief.
In other business at their regular meeting, parish council approved a 73-lot Luling subdivision that it had put off accepting two weeks ago because streetlights were not in place.
The council voted to accept the Lakewood Ridge subdivision at the south end of Lakewood Boulevard in Luling after Public Works Director Greg Bush told the council the lights are in place.
The council on Jan. 22 had put off accepting the new streets until the lights were installed.
|Tax Assessor Clyde Gisclair|