New Orleans — For the second time this week, the New Orleans City Council met as the Board of Review. And for the second time this week the board voted unanimously to certify its consultants’ suggestions to lower some 3,200 property tax appeals.
The do-over was necessary since District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell needed to recuse herself from the vote, which she did on Thursday. The measure passed 6-0.
While Hedge-Morrell was part of the previous unanimous vote during Tuesday’s meeting, she had a conflict of interest: Two 7th Ward properties she owns with her husband, Arthur Morrell, clerk of Criminal District Court, were appealed and had their assessments lowered.
Hedge-Morrell, in turn, cast a vote on Tuesday that benefitted her financially. It wasn’t until later that evening, she said, that she realized her assessments were lowered. She blamed the mistake on a clerical error by HGI Catastrophe Services, the council’s consultant.
A spreadsheet of appealed assessments listed by council district was out of order, she said. Because of that, she said, she did not immediately realize her properties’ values had been lowered.
Hedge-Morrell’s spokesman said Tuesday evening that the councilwoman had not received notification about the lowered assessments, which lent itself to the confusion.
At that point, Hedge-Morrell asked to reconvene the Board of Review so she could recuse herself. The council serves as the Board of Review for property owners’ appeals of the valuations Assessor Erroll Williams places on their property.
The Morrells bought the two properties in the 2800 block of Serantine Street in 2009, according to assessor’s office records.
Williams valued each property at $153,000. The couple appealed and asked for one property to be reduced to $80,000 and the other to be reduced to $70,000. HGI suggested that the houses be valued at $85,600 and $70,000.
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