Archive for September, 2009

Don’t Fence me In

09/30/2009

For the past few days, the ArkLaTex media has worked itself into a veritable frenzy over a fence at Grambling State University President Horace Judson’s crib.

Last Thursday’s (Monroe) News-Star said the fence cost $158 thousand and that it had become a point of controversy in these tight budget times. Then KNOE-TV aired two separate stories, including an interview with Judson. And yesterday, The Ruston Daily Leader chimed in.

Seawall for Cofer’s Crib

Yet nary a peep out of any of these media outlets about the seawall at ULM President James Cofer’s crib. Save a story in the Ouachita Citizen and here at LPNO, nothing has been aired or written.

If we were Horace Judson, we would be pointing this out to the other media.

Advertisements

Davison Leases Guide Building to V-Vehicle

09/29/2009

Guideco Properties, LLC – a James Davison front company – has leased the old GM Guide building to the controversial V-Vehicle Company. According to documents obtained by Lincoln Parish News Online, the lease is for fifteen years with an option for the tenant to buy the building during the term of the lease.

The documents do not disclose the lease amount to be paid by the tenant, nor at what price the purchase option might be exercised. LPNO had reported earlier that Davison paid $3.3 million for the property in 2008.

Davison is not listed in SEC documents as an officer or director of V-Vehicle Company.

Clerk of Court Holiday Schedule

09/28/2009

The other afternoon waiting for the elevator at the Court House, we saw this document posted in the window of the Lincoln Parish Clerk of Court’s office. Herewith, their 09-10 holiday schedule.

No Fed Loan for V-Car in “Foreseeable Future”

09/25/2009

A Department of Energy Advanced Vehicle Technology Manufacturing (AVTM) loan for the controversial V-Vehicle Company won’t be approved any time soon, according to a Michael DeVault story in the Ouachita Citizen.

The story quotes Ebony Meeks, a spokesperson for the Department of Energy, as saying, “I don’t know whose wires got crossed where, but we currently have no plans to announce any approvals of ATVM loans in the foreseeable future.”

Fifth District Congressman Rodney Alexander had said last week that the loan approval was imminent.

Failure to obtain the loan could likely doom the project.

Supreme Court Jams Clark – Again

09/24/2009

The Judicial Campaign Oversight Committee of the Louisiana Supreme Court has issued a public statement saying that Marcus Clark violated Canon 7 of the Louisiana Code of Judicial Conduct.

Read the statement here.

The (Monroe) News-Star’s Johnny Gunter has the story here.

Times-Picayune on the Toney/Clark Flap

09/23/2009

New Orleans Times-Picayune columnist James Gill has weighed in on the Royce Toney/Marcus Clark endorsement controversy.

See his opinion here.

Tax Appeal Tales

09/23/2009

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.

Rebecca Webb

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.

County Market Building Purchase

09/23/2009

A couple of weeks ago, a reader asked from whom the Taxpayers of Lincoln Parish purchased the old County Market Building. At last night’s Jury meeting we obtained a copy of the Act of Cash Sale. The owner of record was Investments for North Louisiana, LLC, which lists Samer Roy, Kamal Saadat and Karim A. Dhanani as members.

Tax Appeals at Lincoln Police Jury Tomorrow

09/21/2009

Almost a dozen tax assessment appeals will be on the agenda for a special meeting of the Lincoln Parish Police Jury tomorrow afternoon at 4 pm in the third floor meeting room at the Lincoln Parish Court House. The Jury acts as Board of Review for property tax assessment appeals.

Among the larger of the appeals is JP Morgan Chase wants the 400 North Trenton Building assessment to be cut from $2.2 million to $1.6 million. They ask that the North Service Road building to be revalued from $400 thousand to $330 thousand.

Health South is appealing the valuation of their 1401 Ezell Street facility and asking that it be reduced from $12.8 million to $8.2 million.

CDM Resource Management and Enerven Compression Services are asking that their assessments be reduced by $2 million and $340 thousand, respectively. CDM’s assessment is now $6.3 million and Enerven’s is $943 thousand.

Also on the agenda is the renewal (or not) of Weyerhaeuser’s tax exemption for their Laminated Veneer Lumber mill at Simsboro. The issue was tabled at the August 11 Police Jury Meeting. The plant is currently idled.

This will be the first occasion for LPNO to see the process of tax assessment appeals. It will be interesting to see how our elected officials treat the citizens who foot the bill for government versus how they treat those who show up at meetings with their hands out.

Lincoln Parish Police Jury Adopts Grambling as Charity Case for Culvert Work

09/21/2009

PhotobucketCulvert work at St. Luke’s Chapel, Grambling, LA

The Lincoln Parish Police Jury installed a double culvert and cover in a drainage ditch located inside the city limits of Grambling. The culvert work was done at Saint Luke’s Chapel, 538 South Main Street.

As an independent political body, the City of Grambling is responsible for maintaining its own streets and drainage. The Police Jury can by law do work for other political entities, but it is supposed to be voted upon by the appropriate Jury Committee and full jury in a public meeting. A cooperative endeavor agreement must also be negotiated.

The City of Grambling’s fiscal woes are well known and extensively detailed in their latest audit. It is logical to assume that Grambling has little or no money available to do work such as this

The public was not aware of this work and would not have known about it except that two ministers from the Chapel came to the Police Jury meeting two weeks ago to publicly thank the jury for the work.

If the culvert work was done on the property of the Chapel, then additional issues arise. The Legislative Auditor deals with this issue often – there is this recent example with the DeSoto Parish Police Jury.

According to the Louisiana Attorney General (A.G.) (Opinion Number 05-0153), the police jury can install culverts in public right-of-ways for the benefit of private landowners; however, among other things, there must be a benefit to the public, a cooperative endeavor with the
landowner, and reimbursement of its costs. The A.G. generally uses a three-prong test to determine whether a transaction (e.g., culvert installation) is lawful:
1. There must be a public purpose for expending funds.
2. The transaction must be looked at as a whole, and cannot appear gratuitous on its face.
3. The public entity must have an expectation of receiving something of value when expending funds.

If the Lincoln Parish Police Jury has a policy of doing ditch and culvert work for private entities, then any taxpayer or private business has a right to ask, “Where’s my ditch and culvert?”