Lafayette Parish School System Superintendent Pat Cooper threw an unexpected — and highly welcomed — new pitch into the presentation of his six-year district turnaround plan Tuesday night when he suggested that the community establish a commission to reassess every property in Lafayette Parish.
“I’m going to show you another slide, and I may get slapped and run out of town. But I’m going to do it anyway,” Cooper told a packed Thibodaux Tech cafetorium during a turnaround forum held by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders’ Council. “Why don’t we arrange for the creation of a blue ribbon committee to begin the process of reassessing property values so that all property is valued at true worth and taxed accordingly? This would probably solve the school system’s money issues while bringing fairness to taxpayers.
“If we don’t have that fair tax assessment, and the dollars that go along with it, we’re losing money,” Cooper continued amid widespread applause from the large crowd of stakeholders in attendance. “Some people are paying very small taxes, and some people are paying a lot. All I’m saying is let’s help the tax assessor do this. Let’s bring fairness to everything. Then you don’t have to change tax rates, but everybody’s paying their fair share. That’s one idea.”
Tuesday's forum marked the second public presentation of Cooper's "100% In ... 100% Out" plan to transform the district from the "C" performance score it currently maintains to the "A" district he envisions in six years. It was the first mention, however, of property tax reassessment as one possible solution to school system funding issues.
As The Independent reported in its Feb. 22 cover story, “Downtown Development,” Jefferson Street alone is home to numerous commercial buildings with notably low property valuations, amounting to the potential loss of millions in revenue for public schools and other services — libraries, police protection, etc. — funded by property taxes.
Also noted through ongoing coverage from The Independent’s “Fair Share” series is Lafayette's loss of millions more every year in tax revenues thanks to a loophole in state law that allows the city’s wealthiest landowners to pay agricultural property tax rates for some of the most commercially valuable vacant land in the city.
The state law mainly relies on the honesty of landowners who claim there is some type of agricultural activity on their land in order to pay extremely low property taxes (i.e. one bale of hay). But The Ind’s April 2011 “Green Acres” cover story and subsequent “Fair Share” series have identified numerous tracts of land throughout the parish that benefit from the exemption yet have no agricultural activity whatsoever taking place on them.
The collective property tax bill for the 4,085 acres of agricultural land in the city limits was a little less than $9,200 in 2010. According to Lafayette Parish Tax Assessor Conrad Comeaux, had the farming acreage been assessed using a commercial valuation of only $1 per square foot (though some of this very property has sold as high as $18 a square foot), the revenues to the parish would have totaled $1.5 million.
Hopefully he’ll be better prepared today than he was in that Feb. 20 deposition.
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Louisiana's annual legislative session begins.
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Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, March 10, 2014:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has stalled action on a $3.5 billion annual school funding formula due to state lawmakers by March 15.
The New Orleans Saints have yet to make it official as of this writing, but popular wide receiver Lance Moore has reportedly been cut by the team to free up salary-cap space on the roster.
While two medical marijuana bills are slated for the upcoming legislative session, what some Louisianans might not know is that the plant was approved for therapeutic use by state lawmakers in 1991.
The agenda is shaping up to be lighter than in previous years. But Jindal is term-limited, with fewer than two years remaining in office, and he saw his last big initiative — a proposed rewrite of Louisiana tax law — collapse without getting a vote in 2013.
Sharper has been held without bail because of an arrest warrant issued by Louisiana authorities accusing him and another man of raping two women.
Two Lafayette men have been revealed by police as the infamous duo behind a caper that shook our fair city to its core.
The Lafayette Parish School Board has received a second letter of demand related to last year’s insurance debacle, this time from Key Benefit Administrators claiming it’s owed $93,000 from the school system.
The Louisiana coastline is vanishing faster than mappers can keep track.
A bill that would have overridden local ordinances prohibiting public and private employers from discriminating against lesbian, gay and transgender people has been pulled within less than a week of being filed.
The panel that selects nominees for a controversial New Orleans area flood control board — a board that is suing more than 90 oil, gas and pipeline companies — is set to discuss legislation affecting its independence.
State prison officials cannot keep secret the seller and manufacturer of the two drugs purchased for executions at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
State lawmakers will not appeal a judge's ruling that it was improper to use $3.7 million from a probation and parole officers' retirement fund to balance the state's operating budget.
Conservatives have been losing their minds over this satirical bit on the Colbert Report.
The Lafayette Parish School Board leaves a lot to be desired, but is scrapping the election process in favor of an appointed board the answer?
The House approved legislation Tuesday night to roll back a recently enacted overhaul of the federal flood insurance program, after homeowners in flood-prone areas complained about sharp premium increases.
The NFL has formally designated New Orleans' Jimmy Graham as a tight end for the purposes of his franchise tag value, which is now set at $7.05 million next season unless Graham and the Saints subsequently agree on a long-term deal.
A federal appeals panel ruled Monday that businesses don't have to prove that they were directly harmed by BP's 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil spill to collect settlement payments.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development has closed Interstate 10 from I-49 in Lafayette to Seigen Lane in Baton Rouge.