New Roads mayor threatens legal action over parish tax hike

Mayor Robert Myer said Thursday he is prepared to take legal action if the Pointe Coupee Parish Police Jury ignores the city’s request to reverse a decision imposing a parish tax increase on New Roads residents to pay for street and road improvements.

Myer called the jury’s action an “unconstitutional tax increase” he intends to fight by seeking a court order to block the Police Jury’s move. He said the city’s attorney is drawing up the needed legal documents and would be filing them “posthaste.”

“What the Police Jury is trying to do is a modern-day ‘taxation without representation’ assault on the people and businesses of New Roads,” Myer said. “The residents here had no say in this tax increase and the increase is also a violation of the Louisiana Constitution.”

The Police Jury voted April 23 to levy a 3.42-mill tax on residents of New Roads and Livonia after Jury President Melanie Bueche told jurors both municipalities had gotten an tax break for the past 17 years due to an oversight when voters approved a road tax in 1997. Revenue from the tax was allocated for bridge and road repairs throughout the parish.

Since the tax went on the books, households in New Roads and Livonia paid 1.71 mills each in annual road taxes, only half the amount that their counterparts paid elsewhere in the parish.

New Roads and Livonia taxpayers were exempted from paying the full amount because the two municipalities had populations in excess of 1,000 and both maintained their own street-paving programs.

“The city of New Roads clearly meets both factors,” Myer said.

New Roads has a population of about 5,000 people and maintains its own system of street paving funded by city revenue. But since the parish also spent millions on roadwork in both municipalities, the Police Jury felt justified in requiring New Roads residents to pay the full 3.42-mill tax like the rest of the parish’s taxpayers.

But Myer argues the parish has collected $4.6 million from the half-cent road tax since 2005 within the New Roads city limits.

Also since the tax went into effect, records show the parish has spent only $2.3 million on road projects in the city of New Roads, he added.

Myers attended a Police Jury meeting two weeks to confront jurors on the tax issue, asserting the city has paid for construction and pavement of several large road projects within the city limits, such as Memorial Boulevard and the Tenth Street extension.

“After my presentation of the facts, the jury failed to take action to rescind this unconstitutional tax,” Myer said. “Our citizens deserve better treatment from their government, and this administration will stop at nothing to give them that.”

But Bueche countered in an email Thursday the parish paid $900,000 of the cost of the Memorial Boulevard project. The Police Jury has also set aside an additional $200,000 to build an emergency road within the city limits to give residents an additional evacuation route in case of an emergency, she wrote.

“Most of the jurors feel it is only fair; if the rural areas pay the full ad valorem, why not all?” Bueche wrote. “The Police Jury contends they have maintained a parishwide road program since 1997. New Roads has always been included, as rightly it should be.”