Way back in July 2023, the 2024 quadrennial property reassessment results were first publicized by the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office. For weeks immediately after, there was public, media and political uproar about those proposed assessment increases. Councilperson Helena Moreno initially called for an investigation into assessment practices, which several have done before and doesn’t take much courage. Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams appeared before the City Council on July 25. He reminded everyone that the taxing authorities can eliminate or reduce higher potential taxes related to increased assessments.

In subsequent public meetings, the City Council mercifully voted to “not roll forward” the millages that are under their control.  They also advised taxpayers that they could exert pressure on the Orleans Parish School Board, Sheriff’s Office, Sewerage and Water Board and Levee Board to have mercy as well.  Pressure could be writing letters and attending public meetings to beg for “not rolling forward” millage rates. To his credit, councilman Eugene Green was easily the most vocal of the seven council people. He urged property owners to raise hell with tax recipient bodies.

Even facing proposed 23% average increases in assessments, many taxpayers in Orleans cried wolf for a short time but did nothing. Approximately 8,000 wise property owners who disagreed with their 2024 assessments filed timely appeals.  That leaves over 148,000 other taxable property owners who did not appeal. So, despite all the media coverage slanted negatively toward the assessor’s office, about 95% of taxable property owners elected to accept the potential tax increases.

I recently retired from property tax assessment after 20 years.  I can say with confidence that assessors have a very difficult job if they approach it seriously like Assessor Williams does.  Their work can profoundly affect funds available for local government operations. The appraised value is the assessor’s main work product. This value is always subject to informal and formal appeal by property owners, the Orleans Parish Board of Review (City Council), the Louisiana Tax Commission and the court system.  In addition to those direct regulators, assessors’ accuracy and uniformity are measured against standards promulgated by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO). 

Suffice it to say that if you don’t like your assessment, you have several opportunities each year to help prove it’s too high.

Just like voter turnout in most Louisiana elections, people tend to complain for a short while but take no action. At the December 2023 Levee Board meeting to consider their 2024 millage, only one speaker stepped forward to urge that board to “not roll forward.  At the January 2024 school board millage meeting, all but two speakers stunningly urged that board to “roll forward” that millage. Despite advance public announcement of these meetings, there were less than 50 total people at either meeting including the decision makers and employees of those agencies.

Property tax bills will be mailed very soon and due on February 29. When those bills arrive, expect more temporary wolf cries from a citizenry that complains all the time but rarely acts.

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