Assessor wants to start using aerial data

LIVINGSTON - Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor wants to use aerial photography to verify the sizes of homes and businesses for the parish’s property tax rolls.

Taylor said he suspects a lot of information on those structures was incorrectly given to his office or has changed over the years.

Correcting those errors could add millions to tax revenue and could help reduce tax millages as everybody pays a fair share, he said.

Taylor said he has begun asking people with the various taxing bodies in the parish if they would help pay for the cost of the project. Some local officials said they want the Assessor’s Office to provide more information before they make a decision.

Taylor proposes contracting with Tyler Technologies to compare the sizes of homes and other buildings shown in aerial photography to the sizes listed in his office’s records.

Other areas that have used the service have reported about a 15 percent increase in property assessments, Taylor said.

The current assessments for Livingston Parish show $444 million in taxable property, so a 15 percent increase would mean an increase of $66.6 million in taxable property.

Taylor said even a 5 percent increase, which would put $22.2 million in additional taxable property on the rolls, would result in about $2.8 million in additional property tax collections each year, he said.

An increase in taxable property also would give the parish’s various taxing bodies the option of reducing their millages, which would mean a lower tax, he said.

The cost for the company’s full service is about $40 per building, but Taylor said he can lower that to $10 or less by using his staff to do the field work.

That would result in a cost of about $600,000 for the parish, which the company has agreed to bill over a period of four years, Taylor said.

He said the parish’s taxing bodies could pay for their portion of the costs out of the increase in taxes the first year.

Where there is a discrepancy with the reported square footage, the Assessor’s Office could use the aerial data along with house type, location and other information to create an updated assessed value, Taylor said.

“It will make the millages on the rolls more accurate,” he said.

People would continue to have the opportunity to challenge that information, Taylor said.

The assessments on new homes and businesses don’t pose much of a problem because the Assessor’s Office has been able to obtain building permits and blueprints for those homes, he said.

Problems are more likely with older structures, some of which were built before the parish had building permits, Taylor said.

Parish President Layton Ricks said that based on what Taylor has told him about the program, he is inclined to back it.

“It’s an investment that I think will return dividends pretty quickly,” Ricks said.

Parish Council Chairman Marshall Harris said assessments are the assessor’s responsibility and it is up to the assessor to decide how the Assessor’s Office spends its money.

Denham Springs Mayor Jimmy Durbin said the proposal is an interesting concept, but he would like to see more details. The cost sharing would have to be on an equitable basis, he said.

The City Council likes to reduce its millages whenever the amount of taxable property increases, Durbin said.

Walker Mayor Rick Ramsey said he has talked to Taylor briefly about the program but doesn’t have enough information to determine if the city would want to participate. He said he would like for the Assessor’s Office to give a presentation to the Board of Aldermen on the costs involved and the potential for recovery of that costs.