Between July 15 and August 22, we served approximately 7,500 property owners in the office and another 6,700 filed appeals online or by mail.
At this moment, we are busy reviewing all formal appeals, settling them whenever possible and will be submitting those remaining to the Board of Review September 4, 2019.
It is because of this immediately deadline I asked the Council to allow me to delay speaking to them and why I must cut short my time with you today.
Because of orders from the State Tax Commissioner, we attempted to do a review of all commercial and residential properties within Orleans Parish. Historically, we do approximately a quarter of the city each year rather than all properties once every four years.
Our method of segmenting assessments within each four-year period was recently upheld in court, but we met the state’s demand, suspending annual revaluations, until courts agreed we could hold to our original process.
Thus, there remain some 40,000 properties that will be reviewed for assessment values next year. We informed the Tax Commission of this in April and are in compliance with the law.
Regardless, this year’s large volume of 129,000 assessment reviews caused a very large and vocal response, but I must reiterate: My constitutional job is to review and reassess all commercial and residential properties according to standards set by the State of Louisiana and professional assessors’ organizations.
The Orleans Assessors’ Office has been reviewed in the past by the State Legislative Auditor, independent organizations, as well as the media.
This process is set in law and always in place. In my more than 30 years as an Assessor, I have maintained these high standards of operation and continue to do so.
We are always open to improvement and because we have so openly provided access to all the data we maintain online, we encourage the public to engage with us when we make mistakes. We now have 21 appraisers with state designations and five with national designation.
However, there is no denying the fact that property values in the Parish of Orleans have drastically changed since 2016, as reflected in property assessments for 2020. Only owners of those properties which saw increased or decreased valuations received letters from me this year. They were invited to meet with us during the open rolls period or file a formal appeal.
Increased property taxes result when there are increased assessments and when the authorities allowed by voters to collect these taxes choose to roll their dedicated millage rates forward. I have done my part with assessing value, but it is now in the court of these 10 agencies to do theirs and either vote to reduce property tax rates, keep them neutral or increase them. They must do this in a public vote and after a public meeting.
Now, because this tax increase discussion still looms, I wish to correct several mis-statements:
- I do not set the tax rate, mail tax bills or collect taxes. That is a function of the City of New Orleans.
- The City Council can review and cancel commercial tax exemptions they grant; but those known as ITEPs can only be cancelled by the State LED after formal written notice to my office. Once that notice is received from the State, those taxes are collected by the appropriate agency retroactively to the date of the cancellation NOT from the date I received formal notice.
- The City Council can only reject property assessments that have been formally appealed. That is why we encourage property owners who do not find satisfactory address from our office to file a formal appeal to the Board of Review, which is the City Council.
- Anyone and everyone can criticize my office, but any changes to how properties are assessed must come from the State of Louisiana because this is a State office and is not answerable to the City of New Orleans except to provide information on the tax roll. Thus, recommendations from developer-based organizations, like the GNO Fair Housing Alliance, must be made at the state level.
- The Assessor’s certified database is available for purchase to everyone as a public record, as permitted by law.
- I have repeatedly invited the State Legislature to pass caps on assessment levels in Orleans Parish, especially after Hurricane Katrina related assessments were expiring. These efforts were defeated, most vocally by local taxing agencies in Baton Rouge.
- In 1989, the State Tax Commission did not certify the tax rolls of three districts, including the one I was elected from, which at the time was limited to New Orleans East. When the Tax Commission reviewed those three rolls, assessments were increased, NOT decreased.
- No property is omitted from the taxable rolls in Orleans Parish. And as the single assessor, I have even provided the full list of tax-exempt properties. To add these properties to the rolls would require a change in law.
Let me be very clear, I personally do not support ever giving any property owner, no matter how small or large, special treatment and by law I cannot allow my personal feelings to influence how I do my job.
The Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office does not approve or revoke any form of tax levies or exemptions, except those we control: Homestead Exemptions and special assessments granted by state law on the basis of age, disability and income. And these special exemptions are again granted by state law.
I do not have the authority to remove an entity's tax-exempt status without due process simply because the City wants more money.
While I understand the concern from property owners about tax rates, that is a discussion that must move to the agencies which set the tax rates. That is where the public’s focus now belongs.