by Elliott Stonecipher
Wow, what a Christmas season wallop this morning from the Central Office staff of the Caddo Parish School Board! Via a front-page spread in the Shreveport Times, taxpayers – particularly we property tax payers who are notably targeted for tax abuse here – learn that the latest “reform” plan of our CPSB makes darned certain we keep such tax abuse in place.
The plan is to keep and preserve (and honor, I guess) our highest in Louisiana property tax millage, killing any hope of offering would-be new residents a tax deal no so obviously, embarrassingly bad. In their plan, these officials take the position that taxpayers should celebrate because they are not further raising taxes!
The CPSB pitch to taxpayers thus becomes, “Which do you bedraggled and used and foolish-for-staying-here taxpayers want to hear first, the bad news or the worse news?”
Actual “good news” would have been a net drop in taxation by right-sizing the system, or at the very least, a dollar-for-dollar move of a good chuck of our outrageous property tax load over to sales taxes.
So, as an example, in place of shuttering and disposing of the needed 12-15 existing schools, their “good news” is that they will “close” – a word which, in CPSB practice, does not mean what it sounds like – six schools to build three new ones. (It is notable that even that claim would be provable only after CPSB gets and spends those truckloads of money.)
Then, as if to prove it wants zero scrutiny of this plan, the plan notes that Central Office is willing to “give” our new school board – with six-of-twelve members new to the entire process, and not yet even sworn in – only until a January 20, 2015, meeting to approve it, getting the subject tax proposition on the ballot for a May election.
The Central Office group has already rallied many, though not all, of the pro-tax, pro-status-quo community “leaders.” A new tool in that insiders-only PR push is a VIP bus tour around the parish to look at schools – old and proposed – which has included Shreveport mayor-elect Ollie Tyler as a lead cheerleader. (In my meeting with staff some months ago, it was clear my candor was not appreciated. Thus, I have only heard about the pro-tax bus tour and lobbying.)
The Worst of the Slaps-in-the-Face
Rather than take the Central Office team’s bait and bog down in the mountain of stuff ini this plan, I will look at how our highest-in-Louisiana property tax millage is stomping out Caddo and Shreveport economic expansion and, in fact, just plain, basic economic health.
Bearing in mind that 8-of-10 Caddo residents live in Shreveport, Caddo Parish Tax Assessor data show that of the 171.00 property tax mills Shreveport property owners (homeowners) pay, 75.66-mills are for the CPSB. That’s 45% of our overall property tax load, before we get to City of Shreveport’s 39.60-mills, or the remaining near-55.00-mills by all other Caddo Parish taxers.
Now, compare that 75.66-mill tax to these public school millages around the state, as reported by the State Department of Education:
Caddo Parish School Board (Shreveport) – 75.66 mills
Bossier Parish (Bossier City) – 50.77
Calcasieu Parish (Lake Charles) – 31.59
East Baton Rouge Parish (Baton Rouge) – 42.91
Jefferson Parish (Metairie, Kenner, Gretna) – 22.67
Lafayette Parish (Lafayette) – 32.55
City of Monroe System – 37.77
Orleans Parish (New Orleans) – 43.28
Ouachita Parish – 40.79
Rapides Parish – 50.16
Just how few of us pay our state-highest property tax millage has long been the nasty secret among our tax-and-spend public officials, but it is no more, for which I am pleased to take credit: only 1-in-3 Shreveport households pay any property tax.*
Worse yet – and here is the reason the CPSB has great confidence of success in passing their new plan – that means means the other 2-in-3 households are legally able to vote that tax load on others … which is precisely what has been happening here for a very long time.
I have written on these subjects since 2010, and can assure readers that supporting data will make a Caddo property tax payer feel more like an ATM than a real, live human. (SEE article examples here and here.)
Now, with the property tax stats in mind, consider what sales tax rates – directly dedicated to any given parish’s public schools – are in these urban parishes / school districts:
1.50% … Caddo Parish and Orleans Parish
1.75% … Bossier Parish
2.00% … Calcasieu, East Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Monroe (City)
3.00% … Ouachita (parish, not Monroe, schools)
Only Caddo and Orleans Parishes keep sales taxes for schools so low. The traditional claim for eons has been that sales taxes are “regressive,” unfairly targeting the “poor.” (I was quickly reminded of this in my meeting with Central Office folk.) The list suggests that such is (a) not the belief of most taxers, and (b) that Caddo and Orleans are particularly comfortable hammering property tax payers.
Everyone will make their own determination about all of this, and here is mine: since sales taxes are notably “low” – relatively, of course, not absolutely – for Shreveporters in particular, the CPSB should, at worst for taxpayers, shift property tax millages on a dollar-for-dollar basis to the much broader and more equitable sales tax. We are below the typical and now-expected 9.00% sales tax rate, so why not put a bit of tax equity in place?! How is it better to keep running people out of Caddo Parish?!
Finally, consider this, from the U. S. Census Bureau. Among these larger Louisiana parishes, only Orleans Parish, devasted by Hurricane Katrina, lost population between 1980 and 2013: -32.0%. Consider these others at which we are looking:
… Caddo, with a +1.0% population gain in those 34 years, is second-worst;
… Ouachita +12.2%,
… Calcasieu +16.9%,
… East Baton Rouge +21.6%,
… Bossier +53.4%, and
… Lafayette +53.9%.
I am no economist, but I submit that our Caddo Parish stagnation plan is a doozy, and it’s working like a charm.
This plan from CPSB top staff will certainly work to make sure nothing gets better.
‘More to come …
* The Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data tells us there are 98,284 households in Caddo Parish. From its station, the Louisiana Tax Commission 2013 Annual Report (Table No. 44, Page 40), tells us there are 56,629 “homesteads,” in Caddo, with 24,342 of those “100% exempt” from property taxes because the assessed value of their home is below Louisiana’s $75,000 homestead exemption. So, of the 98,284 households, 56,629 own or are buying their homes, and 41,655 are in rented or otherwise non-owner occupied homes. Among the 56,629 homeowners, 24,342 are exempt from property taxes, leaving 32,287 property tax-paying homesteads.
(Elliott Stonecipher is in no way affiliated with any political party. He has no client or other relationships which in any way influence his selections of subjects or the content of any article. His work is 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 appreciated.)