Audubon Commission to keep same tax rates in 2016, will get extra $350,000 with increased property values _lowres

Advocate photo by John McCusker-- The Audubon Aquarium of the Americas debuts a $1 million, 4200 square-foot exhibit called the "Great Maya Reef" Saturday, March 8, 2014. The new exhibit is near the entranceway to the aquarium and transforms the space to simulate an underwater Mayan city in the Yucatan peninsula.

The Audubon Commission decided Wednesday to keep its property tax rates the same for 2016.

Because the total value of assessed property in New Orleans has increased, the action means the commission will receive an additional $350,000 in tax revenue in 2016.

The commission voted unanimously to leave its rates at 2.99 mills for the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas and Woldenberg Riverfront Park and .32 mills for the Audubon Zoo at a meeting Wednesday morning.

Before the commission could vote to keep its rates steady, it first had to vote to “roll back,” or reduce, the rates. That’s because 2016 is a reassessment year, the end of a four-year cycle in which Tax Assessor Erroll Williams is required to revalue every property in the city.

During reassessment years, public agencies must roll back their tax rates to a level that would keep the amount of money they receive the same as before the assessed value of property increased. Rolling back would have lowered the combined tax rate for the Audubon Commission to 3.12 mills.

After rolling back, the commission then was legally allowed, if it chose, to “roll forward” the rates to the same level as before, allowing it to receive the extra revenue. That is what it did.

The owner of a $250,000 property with the homestead exemption will pay about $57.93 a year under the current rates and would have paid $54.60 a year had the commission opted to stick with the lower rate. The commission’s taxes on a $150,000 property with a homestead exemption will be $24.83 next year, or $1.43 more than at the lower rate.

Money collected by the commission through property taxes is largely used to pay off bonds for improvements at the zoo, aquarium, Woldenberg Park and the Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium.

Officials said the additional revenue collected next year will go toward a new fire suppression system for the aquarium and other infrastructure improvements.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.