Taxes to rise as property assesments dip slightly

Published 8:18 am Friday, June 10, 2016

City officials got a bit of bad news Tuesday at the Bogalusa Council Meeting when David Wolf, the city’s tax and bond attorney, informed them that the newly adjusted property assessments were down.

Last year, city homes and properties were valued in total at $70,186,600 and this year they are valued at 69,760,510. Wolf explained that by state law, the millage rates will be raised slightly so the city will make at least what it brought in over the past year. The city will have a total increase of all its millage rates by .25.

“This is a process that’s mandated by state law. It happens in every parish and it comes every four years,” he said.

Wolf added that in most cases, cities see their assessments rise as home values rise and in those cases, the same state law that requires at increased millage to make up for lost revenue demands a millage reduction. Wolf said that is known as a rollback.

The board approved introducing the ordinance to set the ad valorem tax rate.

In an interview after the meeting, Mayor Wendy Perrette said she wasn’t surprised to see that property assessments had decreased and she said some of that was due to population decline. However, Perrette said she’s against the city raising its taxes to make up for the population decline.

The board also adopted the following resolutions:

A resolution to designate the Daily News as the city’s official journal.

A resolution to apply for a funding through the Water Enrichment Fund.

A resolution to adopt the Louisiana Compliance Questionnaire.

The board also introduced ordinances that will:

Allow the mayor to enter into a contract with a bidder to remove waste from cement slabs

Allow the mayor to enter into a rent/lease agreement with the successful bidder Milltown Flea Market for the property at Sullivan Drive and East Second Street.

Following that, the board heard from the community and for the most part, the speakers were still upset that the city’s elected leaders didn’t approve an extension of public comments from three minutes to five.

Theresa Keller said she believed the decision was based on race, and that the Constitution of the US gave her and others the right to speak.

“We do know that the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives us the right to express our opinion publicly without government interference or restraint or censorship,” she said.

After three minutes, she was cut off, and though Councilwoman Gloria Kates made a motion to extend Keller’s time, board President Sherry Fortenberry ignored Kates and Keller sat down.

Cheryl Bastiste spoke, and she urged the city to hire more African American department heads and to repair streets in African American parts of town at equal proportion to street repairs in white areas.

“Let common courtesy and respect be the order of the day,” she said.

After that, Marvin Austin said his friends fought and died in Vietnam in order to assure the freedom to speak in the U.S.

“Frank Edward Stokes, he went as laid his life on the line so his people could have the same right as everyone in the community,” said Austin.

Austin then complained of road repairs on Martin Luther King Drive. The road was in bad disrepair and the city paved the middle part of it, about two lanes’ worth, but the side of the road is still in disrepair. Even on the newly-paved section, Austin said the pavement isn’t as thick as it is on Willis Avenue, though Mayor Perrette later said it is as thick. In addition, she said the sides of the streets weren’t paved so the city could, in the future, repair water and sewer lines that lie underground.

However, Austin seemed to indicate he wasn’t happy with anything less than a total paving job. In the past, Austin had threatened to boycott city stores to get Martin Luther King paved, and he seemed to echo that again Tuesday.

“If there’s a fight you want from the public then you’re going to get that fight,” said Austin.

The meeting heated up a bit when Fate Ferrell demanded a recall of Fortenberry. This raised the president’s ire.

“You’re not going to berate a public official,” she said, as she gaveled him to order. “You’re going to please sit down or you’re going to change your tune.”

The crowd shouted its disapproval and Ferrell kept speaking until police threatened to arrest him.

Finally an officer said, “We’re not getting anything accomplished here,” and the crowd died down. Ferrell then gave his advice for hiring a new police chief.

“I noticed a few weeks ago, it came out in the paper that we’re getting ready to get a new police chief. We don’t need to get a racist police chief,” he said. “We don’t need to pick a friend of yours or mine. We don’t need a Ferguson, Missouri up here in Bogalusa. We have enough problems here.”

He suggested having a public meeting regarding picking a police chief and he suggested Tommie Sorrell as a good police chief.

Besides that, Joannie Miller, the Washington Parish Republican Women’s group president announced to the public that the current Republican candidates for US Senate will be in Bogalusa Saturday to meet with the public. They will meet at the First Pentecostal Church from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The church is located at 14532 Highway 21.

The mayor and members of the council gave their final thoughts and the meeting then closed.

The next meeting will be held June 21 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall.