Two days ago, in Part I of this article, I passed along to readers the 2008 summary budget documents for the Caddo Parish Commission, and the full budget document for the 2013 current budget year. (In the 2013 document, scroll to report Page C-1, or document page 109 for the two pages which are directly comparable to the 2008 summary.) I thank readers for their unusual interest in the subject. This report will provide some astonishing additional data and information to put this subject in a more meaningful perspective.
Readers may remember that the Commission property tax millage which failed in the recent October 19th election would have generated $23,390,000 over its twenty-year term. It should be noted that $4 million of the original bond issue approved by voters in 2007 remains in the Commission’s coffers, and will be used for associated projects in 2014, regardless of its rejection by voters. The Commission placed the renewal on the ballot a year early. Given its near-$90,000,000 cash cushion, it might have allowed this 1.74-mill property tax to expire.
The subject tax is a very small portion of the Commission’s revenue. In the current budget year, Commission revenue from ad valorem taxes – the proper term for a tax based on and applied to the assessed value of one’s business or personal property – is set to be $55,787,320. Given that the 2013 budget document (Page C13) shows a total Commission property tax millage of 37.67-mills, the defeated 1.74-mill tax is 4.6% of that total. In terms of total Commission revenue, however, it is notably lower: the estimated dollars generated by the 1.74-mills – $2,566,217 (4.6% of $55,787,320) – represent 3.3% of 2013 Total Revenue of $78,166,835. That “Total Revenue” figure does not include existing cash reserves, of course.
In Part I of this article, I noted that “the “Fund Balance at End of Year” was $77,295,846 (in 2008), as compared to the identically labeled amount in the current, 2013, year of $165,726,926. The difference is $88,431,080.” This calculated “reserve” is 94% of the Commission’s 2013 “Total Expenditures” of $94,479,060. Again, the City of Shreveport’s budgeted reserve for this year was $4,422,500 in a budget of $455,223,326, just under 1%.
Total Assessment of Parish Property
Buried in the 2013 budget document is a very important table, at the top of Page C12, detailing the cumulative value, at least as officially stated, of Caddo Parish property on which Commission property tax revenue is calculated. Between 2009 and 2013, the total assessed value of parish property the Commission governs jumped by an astounding (to me, at least) 37.1%, from $334,806,680 to $458,907,154. The City of Shreveport’s total assessment value grew 12.0%, while Vivian’s only 1.1%.
Since the Commission’s ad valorem taxes (mills / percentage) generate dollars based on the total assessed value of property, this extraordinary jump in a few years – related to some estimate of the value of minerals – establishes a base for the Commission’s property taxes into the future. By this year’s (2013) budget, the increase in actual property tax revenue since 2008 was $5,640,610, an amount more than double the annualized revenue of $2,566,217 generated by the defeated 1.74-mill tax.
Per-Capita Spending 2008 Through 2012 Up 37.0% … With 1.9% Population Growth
As we consider this taxing and spending over the past five or six years, we might want to remember that Caddo Parish’s 1980 U. S. Census-reported population in 1980 was 252,358. Growth by July 1, 2012, the most recent data, was only 4,735 people, to 257,093. That 1.9% growth may be compared to 9.6% population growth in Louisiana during those 32 years, and 38.6% nationally. (Shreveport lost several thousand residents during the period.)
Given that Shreveport residents pay the highest property taxes in Louisiana – City of Shreveport, Caddo Parish School Board, Caddo Commission, plus other random millages like the Port, Fire District bonds, etc. – it is important for taxpayers to wonder what is driving all the spending, since it certainly isn’t a growing population. In fact, given the aging of our population and most other populations, there are and will be fewer and fewer to pay property taxes.
The Commission’s 2012 Budget Summary (scroll to report Page C-1, or document page 112) shows total spending last year of $92,163,407, with a parish population of 257,093. A mere five years earlier, in 2008, spending was $66,154,270, with Census Bureau reports showing a July 1, 2008 total Caddo population of 252,895. Thus, with the addition of only 4,198 people, spending-per-person jumped from $261.59 to $358.48, or 37.0% during that short period. (Notably, as discussed above, the increase in the tax assessor’s valuation of all property in the Commission’s portion of Caddo Parish was 37.1% between 2009 and 2013.) We can only imagine the stunning spending growth in the past one, two or three decades, with a stagnant population.
Spending (and spending and spending …)
(1) Shreve Memorial Library, up $6,879,688, or 57.4% since 2008, counter-intuitive given the impact of the internet in this context.
(2) Roads and Bridges, up $11,309,364, or 82.0%. It is this “roads and bridges” category that the Commission wanted to further juice with the defeated millage.
(3) So-called “Economic Development,” up $1,943,581, or 78.6% since 2008. I am among those who have learned that “economic development” is all-too-typically a hyper-political fund, too often mainly resembling a slush fund for all manner of spending when a city, parish or state establishes the group. Duplication of effort is infamously the norm since Shreveport city government, Chambers of Commerce, the North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP), Louisiana Economic Development and others are already raising and spending tax dollars for these purposes. (Such is exclusively and professionally the job and work of NLEP.)
I trust readers will find these data meaningful in understanding these financial facts of the Caddo Commission. For the record, I add a personal note: nothing about this analysis is personal or targeted. I have passed along such data and analysis on many other government entities. The Commission has a sudden and extraordinary amount of public money under its control, and that fact alone should generate such attention. To the degree the Commission fails to provide these data to the public in an understandable way, that attention may only be expected to grow.
I re-urge my longstanding appeal that the Caddo Commission and Shreveport City Council begin work as soon as possible on a transition here to city-parish government. Only then will voters know that every possible solution to our high taxes and poor (and threatened) economy is being responsibly investigated. Given the Commission’s outstanding financial condition, there has not been a better moment for such in several decades.
Elliott Stonecipher’s reports and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest, with no compensation of any kind solicited or accepted. Appropriate credit to Mr. Stonecipher in the sharing – unedited only, please – of his work is requested and appreciated.