Once again the Caddo Commission is trying to float another ad valorem tax bond issue. Like before, the Commission has picked a date where the bond issue is the only ballot issue – Saturday, May 3. By the narrowest of margins (59 votes), the last attempted bond issue was defeated on October 19, 2013. And as before, the Commission does not have a sound basis for asking for these funds from over taxed property owners.
The Commission could have scheduled this vote on another date, like the November primary election which will feature the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Shreveport Mayor and City Council, Caddo School Board and Shreveport Marshal. In that event, the Commissioner would have shared the cost of the election with other governmental entities. The 2013 failed bond election cost the Parish in excess of $144,000; the May election costs should be about the same.
The bond election is to continue a 1.75 millage tax to enable the Parish to issue additional debt, – – projected to be approximately $23 million to fund capital needs for next 5 years. The expected bond issue schedule is $8 million in 2014 and 2015, and then $7 million in 2016. The Commission expects to spend approximately $4 million per year over a 6-year period for capital improvements.
The primary concerns over this bond initiative is the total ad valorem millages on Caddo properties and the budget surplus of the Commission. Caddo property owners pay taxes for the Commission, the Sheriff, tax assessor and the Caddo school system. Shreveport residents also have additional millages for city bond issues; these property owners pay the highest property taxes in Louisiana.
Notwithstanding the bond initiatives, Parish tax revenues will undoubtedly increase in future years as the value of residential real estate increases over the state’s $75,000 homestead tax exemption. The Parish has not rolled -back millages to keep property taxes level; in other words, the increase in property values over the years has resulted in additional tax revenues for the Commission.
The Commission has received almost $50 million in Haynesville Shale royalties.
These funds are not-dedicated and expenditure of these unexpected monies is totally discretionary with the Commission. The Commission also has over $100 million in other funds in its coffers; the Commission receives interest income from all these massive bank accounts.
Simply put, the Caddo Commission should utilize its current income, including interest income, as well as its Haynesville Shale monies for any needed capital improvement projects. The Caddo Parish economy is not growing and additional taxes will negatively impact the already depressed real estate market. The Commission has continued to increase its budget and expenditures despite the fact that the Parish is not growing in population.
If the Caddo Commission really believed this bond issue was meritorious, the Commission would have followed a more direct approach. Specifically, the bond election would have been the November ballot, and the Commission would have mounted a bond education campaign. Its no surprise that this ballot initiative previously failed, – – and hopefully it will meet the same demise in May 3.