Court rules against Abbeville tax

A state appeals court has ruled that a property tax to fund hurricane protection projects in Vermilion Parish cannot be levied within the city limits of Abbeville, the parish’s largest city.

The Vermilion Parish Police Jury in 2010 called for a parishwide election on a new property tax to fund the newly created the Vermilion Parish Hurricane Flood Protection and Drainage District. The idea for the district emerged after the extensive flooding in the parish during Hurricane Rita in 2005 and hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008.

Abbeville officials objected to the tax, citing a provision in the city’s governing charter that bars the police jury from imposing a tax within the city for anything other than the courthouse, jail, libraries and roads.

The police jury put off the tax vote and filed a lawsuit asking a judge to decide the issue.The judge sided with Abbeville after a trial earlier this year, and the state 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal agreed in a ruling issued this week.

The police jury has not decided its next step but could either ask the appeals court to rehear the case, seek a review by the state Supreme Court or let the ruling stand, said attorney Paul Moresi III, who is representing the policy jury in the case. Moresi had argued Abbeville’s charter prevented the policy jury from taxing within Abbeville but not the new hurricane protection district.

The appeals court agreed with Abbeville that the hurricane and drainage district was created by the police jury and falls under the same taxing prohibition within the city limits of Abbeville as the police jury does.