LOUISIANA – City Council saw a fleshed-out set of proposed property tax increases at their meeting Monday. Together, the proposed levy would dedicate new funds to the city’s parks, cemetery and library, in the hope that it will relieve pressure from those line items on the city’s balance sheets and allow the city to begin investing in the future.

In total, the levy on $100 of assessed value would increase from 83 cents currently to $1.59. Based on current assessments, the new levy would add a little less than $275,000 in support of city services.

Tax proposal October 2019

The proposal was put together by Susan Fregeau, the chair of the Council’s finance committee. The council has been trying to come to terms with flat or declining revenues from sales and property taxes for the better part of a year.

“We need to plan ahead. We cannot just keep putting band-aids on all of the things that are happening — we need to do something proactive,” Fregeau said. One priority: repaving of city streets, an increasingly urgent priority that comes at a hefty price tag: $140,000 for one mile of a 24-foot wide road. Louisiana has 31 miles of road.

The four proposed levies would have to be approved by voters.

They include a .27 cent increase to the levy for the general fund, which Fregeau said should be used in support of the city’s police and fire departments. It would bring the levy for the general fund from 73 cents to $1 and generate $97,456 in additional revenue.

Property-owners in the city limits currently pay another 10 cents for every $100 of assessed value in support of the city’s library, which is further subsidized by more than $13,000 from the city’s general fund. Fregeau proposed Monday that the levy in support of the library fund be increased by 4 cents, in order to replace that subsidy and free up that money from the general fund.

Missouri law allows cities to create an independent park board, supported by a dedicated levy. The plan presented Monday would add a levy of 30 cents to support a newly created park board. Of the roughly $100,000 produced by the levy, Fregeau estimated that about three quarters would go toward maintaining the parks, relieving the city of that responsibility. The rest could be used on improvements to the park system and beautification project.

The nine-member board could be a positive element of the proposal, Fregeau said.

“I think this could be a good thing, in that we involve nine more individuals in our city and how its run,” Fregeau said.

Finally, Fregeau proposed a dedicated levy for the maintenance of the city’s cemetery of 15 cents, generating $54,142.

Fregeau presented the council with estimates of the annual and monthly consequence of the proposals for real homes of different values in Louisiana, ranging from a one-bedroom, 888-square feet home ($13.38 more a year and $1.15 more a month) to a four-bedroom, 4,600 square foot house ($281.78 more a year or $23.48 more a month).

One of the advantages of a property tax increase over another sales tax increase, Fregeau said, was that it was more closely related to the ability of individuals to pay.

Per Fregeau’s understanding of the legal situation, each of the four levies would be voted on individually and require a simple majority for passage. If the issues are to appear on the upcoming April ballot, language will need to be finalized and submitted by around the end of January.

Jeffrey Salois, chair of the council’s economic development committee, said he had initially been leery about the prospect of a tax increase.

“I wasn’t a huge proponent of it, but when I look at the numbers  now the numbers look pretty impressive for the increase we would get and what we need,” Salois said. But voters, he anticipated, would need to be convinced they would see improvements in their town in line with the size of the tax increase.

Mayor Marvin Brown suggested council-members begin to discuss the issue with their constituents to get a better sense of how the proposal would be received.

Check pikecountynews.com this week for additional updates from Monday’s City Council meeting.

Send questions and comments to athorp@pikecountynews.com.

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