First, please bear with a opening, personal note. Some of you have communicated to me about how surprised (shocked, as many say) and concerned they are as they learn how our city government really operates. I understand, and am mindful of that reaction. I, as many of you, was born and reared here, and hate to see where Shreveport stands, and what now passes for normal governance. I am convinced, nonetheless, that if those of us in Shreveport who care don’t intervene as we are able, this inflection point in our history will tip into an uncorrectable condition. Cities don’t just roll-over dead one day; like Gen. MacArthur’s “old soldiers,” non-competitive cities seem to “just fade away.” Many cities in America are doing so, right now, and are well along in the process.
Now, back to this work.
In this morning’s Shreveport Times, you’ll see a quick and passing mention of action in yesterday’s City Council meeting which was, in fact, the latest tax to be levied on Shreveporters. The article is here, but you’ll have to scroll down and look for the three short paragraphs about your electric bill increase, which is, in fact, an elective tax levied by Cedric Glover and four council members.
Regardless of many official assertions to the contrary, this is just a new tax to put on top of Shreveport’s highest-in-Louisiana property taxes, our 8.6% sales tax, and many, many other fees, assessments, etc. Rather than hear it from me, however, let me share with you some pertinent points passed along to me by my councilman, Michael Corbin, in response to my direct questions of him. Please note as you read that Councilmen Corbin, Jenkins and Webb voted against the tax, but it was passed with “yes” votes by Jeff Everson, Joe Shyne, Sam Jenkins and Rose McCullough. Here are Michael Corbin’s responses, copied directly from his e-mail to me:
“The Franchise Fee is set by each municipality capped at 5% by State Statute. At some point in the past, the 2% rate was established by Council. There are a few municipalities wh do not charge a fee at all and many, like Bossier City and now Shreveport, who charge the full 5%.
There is really no portion for the City to pay as this a fee(tax) set by each municipality and not required by AEP/Swepco. Although it is included in the Franchise Agreement with the utility, it is simply a pass-thru tax charged to customers and collected by AEP/Swepco.”
Many of us believed this “fee” was somehow required of Shreveporters, and though we may have known it was a “pass through,” it seemed to be an unavoidable new expense for each of us. Admittedly, for many this is not a major tax: while a quick check of your AEP bill will show that few of us use only the 1,000 KW hours per month cited in the article, even at triple that usage we are told the additional tax would be $6.00 a month.
The point is that as Mayor Glover played a lot of games with the Council along the way, the best argument he came up with for the tax is that “Bossier did it.” Yes, Bossier also decided to levy more taxes by raising their existing 2% “fee” to the state maximum allowed 5%, and did so without telling Bossier taxpayers anything. As with much else these days, what Bossier wants and does seems to heavily influence our mayor. The point is, it’s just another tax, except this one didn’t have to be raised, didn’t need to be raised, and is collected for the city by AEP. The money is going into the General Fund for a while, then for “street repairs” (we are told). The bond issue just passed – a whopping $175,000,000 – supposedly has a major “streets” component within it, already.
Many of you may remember when I released the results of my late-2010 study of property and sales taxes among Louisiana’s ten largest cities. The research showed Shreveport with – by far – the highest property taxes. For example, Shreveport’s residential property taxes were/are 232% higher than Baton Rouge, 148% higher than Lafayette, and 120% higher than Alexandria. (Our public school and other parish residential property taxes are also much higher than in these other cities.) What no one else could know was how much hell I caught for doing the study and releasing the results. In context, the point is that Glover and his many “hires” and appointees scattered in public jobs all over the city, along with several Council members, opined that our “fees and other charges” are much lower than those with which these other cities mug their residents. No evidence of such was ever provided, of course. Well, here is a little-known “franchise fee” that is really a tax that never needed to be levied, and one which many other cities – we are now told – choose NOT to levy.
Here’s my point: Shreveport is over 6,000 people “smaller” than in 1980, and has not be able to attract net new residents for at least that long. Our city “grew” (‘remember “Shreveport, A City on the Grow”?) far disproportionately – for decades – by annexation of existing populations of people out in Caddo Parish. Our taxes are far, far too high for any Louisiana city, and Bossier’s schools attract the relatively few outmigrants left over after we subtract those who leave the state altogether.
I don’t know where our city government learned how the world works, but they need to go back to (a new) school. In the real world, the absolute LAST THING Shreveport or any other city in our fix should be doing is raising taxes.
Thank you for caring enough about our city to let the facts get in your way. Our city government certainly doesn’t … and won’t as long as the present bunch calls the shots.