Last night’s Lincoln Parish Police Jury meeting was interesting – the tax appeals that we had picked to be contentious were not. No one showed up to make their case. But a couple of other folks did show and they had done their homework.
Immediately after the agenda was adopted, District Seven Juror Jody Backus recused himself from voting on items A and B (JP Morgan Chase), G (Village Green Apartments), H (Charleston Square Apartments, and I (Royal Crest Apartments). Asked about the recusal, Backus said it was because of business dealings with the four entities.
The first two appeals from JP Morgan Chase were rejected, the Jury (acting as a Board of Review) voted unanimously to uphold Lincoln Tax Assessor Pam Jones’ figures. Next was an appeal from Joshua Otwell, who wanted his assessment reduced from $106 thousand to $70 thousand. Jones and Otwell had met since the appeal was filed and agreed upon a new number of $92 thousand. The jury voted unanimously to accept the corrected assessment.
Next up was a young lady who made this old tax protester kind of proud. Rebecca Webb said the assessments of her land and home were not in line with other property owners in the area. She had sent letters to the Assessor and the Board of Review making her case. She also distributed several spreadsheets with the tax assessments of the Police Jurors and several of the Assessor’s staff.
Jones rebutted with several sheets of comparables (comps) of area property sales. The most recent comp sales (2009) would seem to uphold her (Jones’) assessment.
However, Webb told LPNO in an interview today that it is not so much any more about the money as it is about being treated with fairness compared to other parish property owners.
After about 20 minutes of discussion from Webb, Jones and the Jurors, the Jury voted to uphold Jones’ assessment by a seven to one vote, with three abstentions. Voting to uphold were Hunter, Bennett, Franklin, Hammons, Backus, Henderson, and Mays. Voting no was Sharyon Mayfield. Abstaining were Glover, Russell and Wyatt. Annie Brown was absent.
Even though the discussion was at times animated, the Jurors all told Webb that they welcomed her presence and said that as a taxpayer was entitled to appeal and should be commended for exercising that right.
Concern About Continuous Reassessment
We were concerned that the Tax Assessor reassessed all the neighborhood after Webb’s appeal.
Asked whether the practice of adjusting assessments between the state mandated four-year intervals was common practice, Jones told LPNO that whenever incorrect data is discovered, interim updates are often done. Tax assessment “is an ongoing process,” Jones said. In this case, Jones said she sent field assessors out to the location to look at the area.
It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after an uppity property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be government retribution to show what can happen if you complain too loudly. Mrs. Jones says it is a legitimate action. We shall take her word for it – this time.
Item E, the North Louisiana Rehabilitation Center’s appeal was rejected unanimously and the Assessor upheld.
Lincoln Family Housing
Next up was Larry Hoss of Lincoln Family Housing, LLC. He is a principal in the company that owns and operates the low/moderate income housing located on Hwy 80 West. After learning from his banker that last year’s tax bill was probably overpaid, he decided to appeal this year’s assessment of $2.2 million and asked that it be reduced to $2 million. He had contacted Tax Assessor Pam Jones and asked for guidelines to help calculate the tax owed. Rather than estimated value, this type of property is assessed on estimated income from rent.
Unable to obtain the necessary guidelines, Hoss said he hired a lawyer to help calculate the taxes. He also submitted his figures to the Louisiana Tax Commission, who would also adjudicate any appeals a taxpayer might file were he not satisfied with the local Board of Review. The Tax Commission showed a value of $1.76 million, well below the Assessor’s number and lower than the number Hoss had suggested in his original appeal. Here are the calculation sheets for the three valuations.
The Jury voted unanimously to uphold Jones’ assessment, as they could only choose between the $2.2 million and $2 million numbers. Hoss had said that since the Tax Commission would likely assess at the lowest number, the local appeal was a formality so that he could go to the next step and let them set the final assessment.
Likely Mrs. Jones is going to lose on this one.
As the other three apartment complexes on the agenda – Village Green, Charleston Square, and Royal Crest – were low/moderate income rentals, and likely would be a similar situation to Lincoln Family, the jury voted to uphold the Assessor. The owners will probably appeal to the Tax Commission. The two compressor equipment company’s appeals were also rejected.
Item five on the agenda was the renewal of an exemption for Weyerhaeuser’s Simsboro Laminated Veneer Mill. Jury attorney Andy Shealy sent a letter asking that the exemption be extended for a year, as the School Board, Assessor and Sheriff had agreed to do so already. The Jury voted unanimously to grant the one year extension.
UPDATE: 6:30 pm – 9/24/09
What we wrote upthread:
It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after an uppity property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be government retribution to show what can happen if you complain too loudly.
What we should have written:
It could be just coincidence that a neighborhood gets reassessed immediately after a property owner appeals their tax bill. Or it could be retribution to show what can happen if government thinks an uppity taxpayer is complaining too loudly about their tax bill.