by Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Posted on February 17, 2011 at 10:59 PM
NEW ORLEANS – Take a ride down any street in New Orleans and chances are you’ll run into similar properties, side by side, with different property tax assessments.
It’s a frustration for neighbors who say they’re fed up with paying more than their fair share of taxes.
“If the whole city was assessed properly, then the actual millage rate would go down a lot, so it would be just more evenly spread throughout the city and you wouldn’t have neighbors angry at each other,” said Kurt Buchert of Mid-City.
“Historically, there’s been a serious under-assessment of property and uneven assessment of property in this city,” said Janet Howard, President and CEO of the independent Bureau of Governmental Research.
In many cases the process of setting the value of your property for tax purposes has been notoriously political in New Orleans.
Howard says the old system with seven district assessors in the city had many flaws.
“The practice for a long, long time has been to do what’s called sales chasing which means the assessor marks up the value of houses as they sell, but leaves the other ones around them, regardless of what the markets doing at the same level,” said Howard. “That resulted in a lot of inequities.”
“Some homes out there that I know about are worth $250,00, $275,000 are sitting out there with assessments of $43,000, $70,000 things like that,” said Erroll Williams, who took over as the first citywide assessor in January. “Those I’m going to fix.”
He’s now in the process of re-valuing much of the property in the city.
“Be prepared to pay closer to what the fair market value of your property is,” said Williams.
A row of classic New Orleans shot-gun doubles helps define the landscape on the banks of Bayou St. John in Mid-City.
All of the homes on the even numbered side in the 600 block of Hagan Avenue belong to one owner, Hilda Roberta Maestri.
According to Williams, the current assessment for the whole block is $456,000.
“I would think they belong somewhere in the $600,000 to $900,000 range.
Williams visited the site this week at the request of WWL-TV.
“It is undervalued from my view today,” said Williams. “That’s not looking at what it was in August of last year when they were renovating some of those. Some of those may not have been completed at that time.”
The owner of the property who lives in Mandeville did not return WWL-TV’s phone calls.
Kurt Buchert sent a letter to Williams complaining about the assessments on Hagan Avenue.
He lives next door a blighted building on David Street, also owned by Hilda Maestri.
The assessed value for the dilapidated four-plex is $100,000.
“The people who aren’t taking care of their property are getting a gift from the city in the form of low taxes, where the rest of us are fixing up properties and making the city a better place and we’re the ones that get hit with higher rates,” said Buchert.
Williams says the new tax assessment will cut both ways, some property will go up, other will go down.
“Some of these gated communities are beginning to see sticker shock that owners paid over $700,000 for property and can’t get an appraisal above $500,000.
Properties will be notified of their new assessment July 15.
The appeal period will be August 1 through August 15.
Assessor Williams wants you to let him know if there’s a piece of property in your neighborhood where the assessment appears to be low.
You can e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org