While 2020 has not been particularly gracious to local business and homeowners, St. Charles Parish Assessor Tab Troxler has some good news – help is on the way.
This year frequent flooding has afflicted local homeowners, some of whom have dealt with their home flooding twice in just eight weeks. Business owners have also faced hardship, including coronavirus-related occupancy requirements, social distancing protocol and even complete closures.
In both scenarios, there has been a loss of value: business owners have lost income potential and homeowners have faced the financial challenges of remodeling.
Troxler’s office is in the process of mailing out 2020 Tax Assessment Notices.
“You should expect to receive them in the near future,” he said last week when talking about the arduous task of assessment. “Due to the restrictions placed upon businesses by the Governor’s Executive Orders, we have applied a twenty-five percent reduction on the assessment of personal property. Also, all homeowners impacted by the floods this year have been granted fifty to seventy five percent reductions on their homes.”
Business assessment reductions
“I’m just doing what the law allows,” Troxler said. “Unfortunately, the law also requires the reassessment of properties every four years. This is a reassessment year and the laws and rules governing reassessment are blind to COVID-19. Anyone who knows me, knows I’ve been wrestling with these numbers, all the while keeping an eye on the impacts from COVID-19 and the boundaries established by law.”
Troxler said the tax reductions are a provision of Louisiana Laws Revised Statutes 47:1978, which provide the ability of the assessor to make relief during a disaster.
“The big issue with that is this was never intended when it was designed for a pandemic,” Troxler said. “It was designed around natural disasters we have here in Louisiana, like hurricanes and floods.”
In a statewide July advisory, the Louisiana Tax Commission ruled the provisions contained in the law may be applied as a result of COVID-19.
“In terms of businesses, there was some opportunity we saw with an opening in that guidance,” Troxler said. “We discussed things here and we know there was a number of businesses closed down or continue to be closed down. It is by no means going to make these businesses whole, but we see an opportunity to offer something.”
His office gave the reduction on a case-by-case basis, Troxler said, looking closely at whether a business was affected negatively by the pandemic.
“You can’t just say retailers, because some retailers did business, and maybe even more business than usual, the whole time,” Troxler said. “But something like a niche clothing store probably didn’t do anything because they were closed.”
Troxler said with assessments there are no general and fast rules. He said the reductions can be applied to personal property, including inventory, machinery, equipment and supplies. In many cases, assessment of buildings and grounds were not included for various reasons.
All tax notices will include contact information for his office, Troxler said, adding all business owners are more than welcome to contact him to talk about their notice.
Home assessment reductions
Homeowners who experienced one flood this year will automatically receive a 50% reduction in their assessment, Troxler said, adding homeowners who flooded twice this year will automatically receive a 75% reduction in their assessment.
“I did not want these homeowners impacted by the flood to go through a lot of bureaucratic mess to get something the law provided,” he said. “We’ve got a list from the EOC on boundaries of areas impacted by the flood. The law provides the help, so why make them jump through a hundred hoops?”
Troxler said while he was happy to give homeowners the reductions the law allows, many residents will see a higher baseline property value due what Troxler explained as a “huge increase in property value” in many places of the parish.
While values remain solid now, Troxler said he may have some legal flexibility later in the year if the pandemic further affects the economy and unemployment.