New tax report shows where all the money in Calcasieu goes
Published 7:39 am Sunday, May 7, 2023
The Alliance for Positive Growth (APG) has pulled together information to help Calcasieu Parish citizens track around $700 million in property tax dollars paid and allocated last year. No other report, available online or off, puts this comprehensive and detailed data all together in one place for the parish. That, said Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor Wendy Aguillard, is the study’s primary benefit.
“It may answer some questions we generally field,” she said, “but many times people like to speak with an individual and ask further questions about the information they read. My staff is always available to assist our property owners and tax payers.”
One of the many eye-opening details for those who access the interactive Tax Study site might be the number of taxing entities or districts in the Parish. There are 113, from Airport Maintenance to Waterworks District 5. That doesn’t mean that all Calcasieu Parish residents’ annual property tax payments help fund all 113 taxing entities. It depends on where the property is located. For someone who has never really thought about those individual amounts listed on their bill, the question might be, “Couldn’t this be simplified or aggregated in some way?” A single pot of money that goes to the School Board, Sheriff’s Office or Parish for roads, for example, might be easier. But in Louisiana, voters are more likely to pass a tax when they know the specifics.
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“It was a massive undertaking to pull all of this information together,” said Faith Hooks, APG Executive Director. Every figure was checked and cross checked, or as Hooks put it, “Every single line of data in this study required simultaneous use and verification of multiple reports.”
Louisiana Tax Commission, Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Tax Rolls of Collected Tax, Louisiana Legislative Auditor 2023 Maximum Millage Report (and its legend), Calcasieu Parish Sales Tax Report and Louisiana Secretary of State Election Voter Data Portal were all used to create the APG’s Community Tax Education Initiative. Links to those reports are included. “We used the Louisiana Tax Commision Report to get the estimated collectible tax, Hooks said. To find out how the total property was actually collected, it was necessary to use the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office Tax Report, which is different from estimated taxes because not everyone pays their taxes and because people move in and out of the parish and buy and sell homes throughout the year.
APG’s report briefly defines tax terms such as Millage, Ad Valorem and Levy.
The millage rate is the tax rate applied in the calculation of the imposition of a specific property tax. The millage is based on an archaic monetary unit called a “mil”, according to the Louisiana Tax Commission website. Millage rates are not expressed as percentages, but instead as thousandths of a dollar.
1 mill = $0.001 or 1/1,000. A 20 mil tax would result in a tax of $20 for every $1,000 in assessed value. Ad Valorem is a Latin phrase that translates to “according to the value.” The most common Ad Valorem taxes are property taxes levied on real estate. According to the Calcasieu Assessor Property Tax Basics website. the Assessor estimates property value, but does not set the millage rates. The 113 taxing districts adjust the millages/tax rates according to law, their budget and the vote of the people. The assessed value of a property is determined by the parish assessor.
Hooks uses her own property tax bill during the first of two tutorials to show users how to navigate the site. She uses the same bill again to show users how to verify the validity of the report, where the info is from, how it was cross-checked against other reports, what the tax, when it was on the ballot, when it will run out and whether the tax entity is collecting the maximum it can collect.
One of the taxes she “tracked” from her bill was a Special School Millage. “I had no clue what that was until I conducted this study,” she says during her tutorial. To find out it was for school maintenance required going through most of the source material.
The APG Community Tax Education Initiative can be accessed from links on the organization’s website and Facebook site. Groups and organizations can schedule presentations for 10 or more.