Millage rate is taxing formula districts use

Aguillard talks property values, exemptions to Sulphur Rotary Club

Heather Regan White / The American Press

The parish’s tax assessor wants residents to know that, though the word assessor is in her title, her office does not assess taxes.

“We list and value all of the ground and buildings and all of the business assets for all of the property here in Calcasieu,” Wendy Curphy Aguillard told the Sulphur Rotary Club Wednesday.

Aguillard is a Certified Louisiana Assessor who was elected in 2011. She was named 2015 Assessor of the Year for the state.

“Property taxes are actually assessed by all the individual taxing districts,” she said. “They are put on the roll by our office, but we don’t assess that.”

Taxes are set and levied by districts and collected by the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, she said.

“So, when you go to the voting booth, or choose not to go to the voting booth, that is what you should look at,” she said. “How much is that millage rate? How much does that district need to provide me those services? Police, infrastructure, hospital, recreation … that’s what those local tax dollars go toward.”

The millage rate is the taxing formula districts use.

“We have one of the largest tax rolls in the state, because of industry,” Aguillard said. And that will continue to increase with ongoing expansion, she said.

Aguillard said the parish’s total taxable valuation is roughly $2.5 billion.

Residents living outside city limits are granted Homestead Exemption, which means the first $75,000 of their property’s valued worth is exempt from taxation. Properties within towns and cities are not exempt.

There are 120,000 parcels in the parish. About 48,000 of those qualify for homestead exemption. Of those, fewer than 26,000 parcels are completely untaxed.

State law dictates that all land and residential improvements be taxed at 10 percent of fair market value. Commercial improvements and business assets are assessed at 15 percent FMV.

There are several special assessment levels including a freeze for residents age 65 and older. That means that their property’s valuation at the time they turn 65 is what they will pay taxes on, regardless of how the value changes thereafter.

There are also freezes available to anyone determined by the Social Security Administration to be 100 percent permanently disabled, as well as for veterans verified by Veterans Affairs to be 50 percent disabled.

The spouses of certain civil servants, like police and firefighters, who die in the line of duty were recently given total exemptions by the state Legislature.

As far as corporate tax exemptions, Aguillard said there is between $3 billion and $4 billion worth of property in the parish that is tax exempt. Recent rule changes at the state and local levels require her office to begin providing entities with information in a variety of formats.

“It’s basically an unfunded mandate,” she said. “We have the information, but we don’t have the technology to extract it.”

Aguillard said that regardless of how “noble” an exemption is, any exemption shifts the tax burden to someone else.

“No matter what, local governments have to have x amount of dollars to run,” she said. “You can want them to run lean and efficient, and they should. However, they have to have a minimum amount to provide services.”

Aguillard said when certain exemptions, for example for industrial land, expire, that value is back on the tax rolls.

“Now the millage rates, by law, have to go down,” she said. “There has to be an adjustment. When valuation goes up and millage rates go down, there’s a trade off. That’s what should happen, no matter what. The more people who pay in, the less taxes everyone pays,” she said.

Aguillard said that while Calcasieu residents do pay some of the highest sales taxes in the country, the area ranks at the bottom in property taxes.

As far as corporate tax exemptions, Calcasieu Parish Tax Assessor Wendy Aguillard said there is between $3 billion and $4 billion worth of property in the parish that is tax exempt.

‘We have one of the largest tax rolls in the state, because of industry.’

Wendy Curphy Aguillard

Calcasieu Parish tax assessor

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