BATISTE: New Orleans Council Is Attempting To Bypass Citizens, Tax Property Owners To Death

The New Orleans City Council put the gears in motion to circumvent oversight from the people of New Orleans. Councilmembers are working to get the legal authority to change millage rates at their discretion, without requiring voter approval. They have done so under the cover of the current hot issue of property taxes.

At the August 22nd council meeting, the city council unanimously passed Resolution R-19-322 requesting “the New Orleans Delegation of the Louisiana State Legislature to support legislation to soften the impacts of property reassessments.”

The resolution made recommendations and provided suggested guidelines for the legislation, however, it contained an “Easter egg.” A small bullet point, easily overlooked, under a “Be it further resolved,” pushes a major policy change. The quiet secondary portion of the resolution calls for Louisiana legislators to “Grant the City authority to adjust millage rates to maintain revenue at appropriate levels.” Everyone is all fired up over the property tax craziness, and no one seems to be talking about the bigger heist that the city council unanimously supported.

The council camouflaged this money grab effort further in the official city council statement on their website. The statement said, “and introduce an amendment to the Louisiana Constitution that would both safeguard homeowners in Orleans Parish and maintain an adequate stream of tax revenue for the City.” The official description avoided admitting the real goal: bypass the citizens.

The entire voting policy is nonsensical to begin with and should be the focus of revamping. When a vote involves property taxes or millages, the only people who should be able to vote on it are those with names on property: property owners. The city council now wants to strip that power from everyone, including property owners, and that’s wrong.

The council wants citizens to believe they are looking out for their property tax concerns, but the real concern should be allowing the council to tweak millages as they desire. Different versions of the council’s message deliver the same goal. They vaguely want to maintain an “adequate stream of tax revenue” or “maintain revenue at appropriate levels.”

Five councilmembers spoke on the resolution: Jay Banks, Jared Brosset, Joe Giarrusso, Kristin Gisleson-Palmer, and Jason Williams. No one at the meeting, council or the individual resident who spoke, even touched on the millage part of the legislation.

Yes, it appears Mr. Banks sincerely wants to help the New Orleans community with the property tax issue. But it needs to end right there with the helpful portion. When elected officials funnel more power to themselves–and away from the people–it unmistakably shows that they are not allies. Banks has yet to respond to a request for comment.

New Orleanians need to realize the LaToya Tax Train is coming full speed. Total up all of the local government taxes starting this year to see why the cost of living in Orleans Parish will be increasing. In May of 2019 voters approved a 6.31 millage, the do-good “Parks & Rec” tax. Property taxes piled on nearly everyone this July and August, and if they did not, don’t worry. Erroll Williams says those who escaped property tax increases will see an increase soon (“We will finish all of Uptown next year”). LaToya wants a new 3 mill tax that will be on the ballot this fall. And the City is actively trying to sneakily maneuver millage changes by taking voter approval out of the equation. The politicians and government employed are itching to get access to more money and they’re choosing to do so by taxing New Orleanians.

The council and mayor should live within their means. If the city is financially struggling, take a look at where the money is going. Don’t burden taxpayers with increased millages the people have no say in. Jason Williams wants the city to budget $440,000 for a program to provide legal representation for immigrants facing deportation. How many New Orleans taxpaying families will have to dig up more money to pay their increased property tax to fund $440,000 legal defense for illegal immigrants? The New Orleans budget is expected to be $715.7 million. Instead of trimming, the council members are sending the mayor their wish lists.

Trim expenditures and lower taxes. That would help the New Orleans economy. Instead the elected officials in New Orleans are digging their hands deeper into people’s pockets. New Orleans has zero accountability. This should concern everyone who lives in the Crescent City.

Now is not the time to be silent. Contact your council member and your state lawmakers because the squeeze is just beginning.

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