NO.AerialsFile

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- French Quarter riverfront and skyline. File photos of aerials of New Orleans area and landmarks shot July 23, 2013.

John McCusker

It's not a mistake. If you're a New Orleans homeowner, you have very likely received a second property tax bill in the mail, or will very soon.

And if you want to remain in good standing with City Hall, you are just going to have to suck it up.

One reason New Orleans has begun sending "supplementary" bills to property owners is that voters in December — whether or not they realized it would mean a second bill this year — approved a new tax for the city's firefighters, both to shore up their pension fund and to provide back pay owed to many of them as a result of a lawsuit the city lost.

Also included in the new bill is a tax renewal dedicated to drainage projects. 

Neither tax was included in the 2017 tax bills sent to property owners in December, for payment by Jan. 31, because voters and the City Council had to approve both taxes before the city could collect them. 

So while things will go back to normal next year, property owners can expect to cough up a little extra money by May 31, a reality that has caught at least a few off guard, to judge by the level of grousing on social media.  

City officials reminded taxpayers about the changes in an announcement last week.

A separate notice on Orleans Parish Assessor Errol Williams’ website reminds taxpayers that his office does not collect property taxes; it refers people to the Bureau of the Treasury with questions about the changes.

A spokesman for Williams’ office said the assessor has had people call or come in with questions about the new bills, but that the office hasn't been swamped. 

The firefighters tax applies to all property in the city, even the portion typically shielded by a homestead exemption. Property owners will pay an additional $25 for every $100,000 in home value.

The city will collect an estimated $8.9 million annually from that tax for the next 12 years. About $5 million of that will cover the annual payments the city must make to its firefighters to settle a decades-old back pay dispute. The rest will go to the city’s contribution to firefighters’ pensions.

Meanwhile, the drainage tax renewal will bring in $15.4 million a year for the next three decades. It will pay for almost a third of the Sewerage & Water Board’s drainage operations, the lone part of the agency’s work that is not paid for largely by user fees.

That drainage work includes overseeing and repairing significant portions of the drainage pipes that run underneath the city and operating and maintaining the canals and pumps needed to carry water out.

Property owners will actually pay less under the renewed drainage tax than they did under the previous one, as the tax has dropped from 4.66 mills to 4.46 mills.

If a homeowner with a residential property worth $350,000 who qualifies for the homestead exemption had been paying about $128 a year under the old tax, that homeowner would pay about $123 under the new rate.

People with questions about their property tax payments can call the city at (888) 387-8027.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.