The oddities of 2020 have affected even the most reliable of life events—taxes. Calcasieu Parish property tax bills have yet to be sent due to delays related to Hurricanes Laura and Delta, Wendy Aguillard, Calcasieu Parish Assessor, said.
The parish’s “open book period” or “public exposure period” was originally scheduled when the parish was dealing with the effects of the storms and needed to be rescheduled. “When you reschedule one of those events in our timeline, it pushes back everything else,” she explained.
Rather than tax notices being distributed at the end of the year as usual, Aguillard said residents should expect their notice from Sheriff Tony Mancuso “probably in the next 10 days.” Residents will notice their bill may be lower than usual because of widespread property damage from the storms.
“Commercial and residential (properties) saw an initial reduction. We felt like the majority of structures saw some sort of damage so we came up with an analysis of the structures and made an initial adjustment on all structures in the parish. This initial reduction would cover roofs, fences and maybe some minor siding losses,” she said.
For the last several months the assessor’s office has been accepting information from property owners in an effort to make additional reductions in their values due to more significant damages. Even after residents receive their bill they will still have the opportunity to present evidence of additional damages incurred since the assessment may lower the bill even further. “They can provide us a disaster form and information from photos, their insurance claims and rewards letters, SBA or FEMA. They can provide all of that documentation to us along with that form to review to see if there are further adjustments we can make for those property owners. We may be able to reduce their notices even more.”
While lower tax notices will help taxpayers, the delayed and reduced tax collections will have a ripple effect on the public entities funded by tax dollars. “We might be able to help taxpayers have a little bit lower or sometimes substantially lower tax notice. But in a disaster situation, those (taxing) districts will face losses and, depending on how much of a reduction happens in a district, they may see substantial losses.”
Aguillard said taxing districts will have one of two ways to deal with the delay and shortage. Some may be able to rely on sales tax collections like the school board, sheriff’s office, police jury, or municipalities. Others, like fire, water or recreation districts, who may rely solely on property tax funds may have to find other avenues in the interim. “Those individual districts may have to either rely on any previous reserves or whatever they can do within the guidelines of their budgets to make it until we start receiving property tax.”
Ultimately, like the recovery of property and the environment, Calcasieu’s tax base will eventually return to normal, she said. “But as we’ve seen with other parishes and as we know from Hurricane Rita, although Laura, I believe was much more devastating than Rita, we are resilient. We will recover but it may just take some time.”