by Elliott Stonecipher
We in Caddo Parish made it less than 48 hours before confirmation that the Caddo Parish Commission completely missed the point in its rebuke by voters on Saturday. Given how dramatic and emphatic that rebuke was – a 77% to 23% “No” drubbing of a proposed property tax millage renewal – some of the more foolish among us hoped for public comment from the Commission that was respectful of voters and taxpayers.
Alas, such was not to be, and the Commission’s bad government beat goes on. Speaking to a KTBS television reporter at a Commission work session on Monday, parish administrator Woody Wilson summarized his understanding of events this way:
“If I was a business person and I was taking my business somewhere, I wouldn’t want to take my business to a community where there are no resources because that community will have to maintain its infrastructure of roads or whatever that I may use,” Wilson said.
The context for that analytical wizardry, as hubris-filled as everything else the Commission says in such circumstances, is that the defeat of the millage will prevent “recruitment” of new businesses to the parish. No, I’m not making this up … video linked above.
OK. Let’s break this down.
(1) The 1.75-mill tax which was “defeated” will keep pumping borrowed cash in for a good while, as capital projects already on that list move through that pipeline. Besides, to put it in context, that 1.75-mills is 1% of the 175.00-mills in property taxes Shreveporters pay, in total. ‘Not exactly a big hit to our taxers.
(2) Wilson is a resident of Bossier Parish, not Caddo Parish. Compared to Shreveporters, their Bossier City neighbors pay 33% lower property taxes. So, Wilson has no skin in the game. It’s easy to bang the table to tax others … as he often does. (In a February meeting at the Commission, I was told by a Commission officer, with Wilson also in the meeting, that the body has given Wilson until June to move back to Caddo. Anyone want to bet on whether or not he will really move here – not “establish residency” – by then, if at all?
(3) Wilson is also a member of the Executive Board of the Transportation Policy Committee of the Northwest Louisiana Council of Governments (NLCOG). He is one of five regularly attending executive members of this group, actually led for years by Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover. Put more directly, if you think what is happening to the I-49 Inner City Corridor and the Hwy. 3132 Extension is community insanity, give Wilson a call. He is at ground zero.
(4) For all the criticism Wilson certainly deserves, we should note that no Commissioner at the heart of the group’s abuse of the citizenry seems to even know there was an election Saturday. Wilson, thus, is paid a huge six-figure salary for duties including providing hidden Commission do-ers a lot of cover.
(5) Note that Wilson’s quote includes, “… a community where there are no resources.” The borrowed money for capital outlay which will one day in the future wind-down in no way touches the near $50,000,000 the Commission has in discretionary cash and short-term government notes in 3 of its 19 funds. The Commission’s budget shows, on its face, that when spending is subtracted from routine and recurring revenue sources, the Commission runs a surplus of $3,000,000 a year … before any scrubbing which would easily yield other millions. How’s that for “no resources”?
Here’s How Some of Them – A Majority? – Plan to Punish Us
The buzz is loud, already. The do-ers I just mentioned are already planning to get even with taxpayers while keeping their oodles and oodles of our money as pure slush. Their plan is to not roll-back property tax millages when the time comes to do so. This is about the amount of money generated for government when the tax assessor – every year – raises the total assessed value of all property in the parish. The millages are multiplied by that total (just over $2 billion now) to determine the take of each public body with property taxes on the books.
Responsible, and respectful of taxpayers, public bodies roll the millage “back,” which is down, to net the same amount of money. This should particularly happen in a place like Caddo which has experienced a 1% population gain since 1980. The Commission is already planning to negate the Saturday election outcome by leaving its total millage where it is, thus gathering up in new revenue its full percentage of the assessors auto-magic annual increase in total parish property value.
If our news media keeps us informed, the public will know when this action by Commissioners is set to happen. We can then arrange for appropriate accountability. On the other hand, we need not wait. We should get every current Commissioner on the record – now – as to the roll-back.
Why These See Us As The Enemy
Some might wonder, now that the Commission has officially responded to Saturday’s vote with its signature, 100% devotion to zero accountability, how we became dog poo on the shoes of its controlling cabal? As one who has watched since 2010 as these Commissioners do great harm – sometimes to some good Caddo citizens just trying to do their jobs for our community – I can offer an educated answer …
… that group refuses to serve us; they serve only themselves. Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover is their model. He and they do this because there is no downside to such behavior. They know no one will act against them. They know no one with the legal authority to investigate their many acts of malfeasance ever does so here. After all, even their everyday colleagues work to provide them cover.
In other words, these public officials, of whom Shreveport and Caddo have far, far too many, do it because we let them …
… they do it because they can.
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.