Covering Louisiana

Apr 29, 2013 4:26 PM by AP

Committee backs phase-in of property tax payments

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Property owners whose annual tax assessments increase by 15 percent or more in one year would be allowed to pay that increase over a three-year period, under a measure approved Monday by the House Ways and Means Committee.

The proposal, brought by House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, attempts to give business and homeowners an adjustment period to pay the new amount. The bill would allow for splitting the total increase and paying one-third of it annually on top of the base amount of the tax bill, he said.

"It's fair to the taxpayer. It's fair to the citizens the state of Louisiana," Kleckley said. "At the end of the third year their full assessments will be paid."

Currently, tax bills are sent out around the first of December and are due in full by the end of the month. Kleckley said he and other elected officials received calls from Calcasieu Parish residents on fixed-incomes who could not afford to pay tax bills that had doubled.

The phase-in would not apply to new construction or remodeling that increases the value of the house, Kleckley said.

In addition, the bill would prohibit taxing bodies from increasing millages during the phase-in period as a way to recoup any decrease in the amount of taxes collected.

The bill, which moves to the House floor for more discussion, was approved by the committee without objection. If approved by the House and Senate, the constitutional change would need approval from voters in November of 2014 to take effect.

On other property tax legislation, the committee approved Kleckley's proposal to have the Louisiana Tax Commission create a uniform tax statement that each parish would mail to property owners to clearly state the assessment amount. Kleckley said some tax notices are difficult to understand and look more like marketing solicitation which end up in trash cans.

Also gaining committee approval were bills that would allow taxing bodies to roll millages forward to their authorized maximum amount established within the last 10 years rather than the maximum authorized rate in effect the prior year. Following an appraisal year, taxing bodies, such as school boards, are allowed to adjust property rates up or down to ensure that the amount of money generated from property taxes remain the same despite changes in property appraisal.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin Pearson, R-Slidell said some parishes automatically roll the millage forward to keep from losing the ability to levy the higher tax rates if needed later.

The measures go next to the House floor for debate.

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