Beauregard to audit homestead exemptions
DERIDDER — Beauregard Parish officials will began performing homestead audits this week to weed out unqualified exemptions.
On Monday, DeRidder City Council members voted unanimously to enter a cooperative endeavor agreement with the Sheriff’s Office, Police Jury, town of Merryville and the School Board to execute a homestead exemption mapping system. At the undertaking of Tax Assessor Brent Rutherford, the initiative will seek to identify properties erroneously designated as exempt and to facilitate the collection of property taxes.
Rutherford told the council Monday that his office would use the efforts of Assessure Systems, a Covingston-based company that will produce algorithms to look at information on property owners. He said the company’s program checks for duplicate homestead exemption filings by cross-referencing parish files with Office of Motor Vehicles and voter registration data and homestead records from other parts of the country.
“There are many properties in the parish, and also several here in the city, that we’re finding that should not be under homestead,” Rutherford said. “So that’s the purpose of running this program.”
He said the company would only receive homestead file information and that no sensitive information such as Social Security numbers would be compromised.
Rutherford said he will review the company’s findings. In some cases, he said, he expects to seek a change order to filings dating back to 2017, but in others he said he would only seek a correction for 2019 filings.
“Sometimes it’s just as simple as someone passing away years ago and the family just never taking care of everything they needed to,” he said. “So we will give people time and try to work with them.”
The findings could equal some unexpected money for the parish and city. Rutherford said a return from a parcel would involve a set amount going to the company and then the remainder going to the district the property is located in. That agreement, he said, eliminated the need for any upfront costs from the city or parish.
So far, the company has performed such audits for Caddo, Lafayette and St. Tammany parishes. Rutherford said he expects many other parishes to jump on board as well.