NEW IBERIA — The Iberia Parish Council voted 11-2 on Wednesday to keep its property tax rate at the 2010 levels even though it could cost the parish $300,000.
Parish tax assessor Ricky Huval told the council that the parish lost $10.8 million in assessed value, and in order to retain current revenue levels, it would have to raise property taxes.
Councilman Bernard Broussard said this is the first time in 20 years he’s seen property values drop. He said decreased valuation will cost the parish $300,000.
Councilman Troy Comeaux said his constituents told him they have been hurt by the bad economy, and they said the parish should suffer along with them by doing with less.
Councilwoman Maggie Daniels said she wanted to see a different plan submitted instead of just voting up or down on the property tax funds in the parish.
There are six funds that receive revenues from parish property taxes. Daniels said she would like to see some funds get more money from property taxes and others get less.
Parish President Ernest Freyou said he didn’t think Daniels’ idea was legal, but, he said, the council should consult with the assessor to find out if it is.
Councilman Naray Hulin said the problem started years ago when the council began rolling back the millage rates every year to keep property tax income constant.
Hulin said the parish is seeing the error of its ways now that it needs the money. He added, however, that the $300,000 is about 1 percent of the total budget, so it may not affect the parish too much this year.
Broussard said some property tax funds, such as drainage and maintenance, have cash reserves that might be able to cover the loss, but the library fund, which recently paid for new construction, may not be able to absorb the loss.
Comeaux said constituents in his district have said they didn’t see the purpose in spending money on new libraries — especially since the internet is available.
Broussard told Comeaux that money from one dedicated fund could not be transferred to another.
Voting to keep the millage at the 2010 level were: Broussard, Hulin, Comeaux, Curtis Baudoin, Thomas Landry, Barry Verret, John Berard, Glenn Romero, Jerome Fitch, Aquicline Arnold and Larry Richard.
Opposing the measure were: Daniels and Lloyd Brown.
Barry Verret was absent.
In other business, the council:
CHANGING BOUNDARIES: The council voted to change the boundaries of the Iberia Parish Economic Development District No. One, which is a Tax Increment Finance District that follows the area surrounding U.S. 90. It currently collects a 1 percent sales tax.
The new boundaries will exclude some property and include new property.
Broussard said some parish residents asked that their inclusion in the district be re-examined, and, in particular, farmers asked that their property be left out. He said a detailed list of the properties included in the district will be available once the parish sales tax office reviews it in a few days.