Lafayette Parish Councilman Kevin Naquin attends a meeting of the Lafayette City and Parish Councils Tuesday, March 3, 2020, in Lafayette, La.

The Parish Council voted Tuesday to introduce an ordinance that would increase the amount of taxes property owners across Lafayette Parish will pay in January to compensate for a 6.6% drop in property tax values.

Lafayette Parish Assessor Conrad Comeaux said the taxable value of property across the parish dropped 6.6% in the past year, while property tax values in the city of Lafayette fell 4.4%.

The last time property values in the parish dropped was in 1988 during the oil bust, he said.

Lafayette Parish, city property values drop for first time since 1980s oil bust

When property tax values drop, Comeaux said, the state allows taxing agencies to collect a higher millage than voters approved in order to bring in the same amount of tax revenue as the prior year. That's what the ordinance introduced Tuesday would do.

If the council does not increase the property millages, parish government faces a 6.6% reduction in property taxes. That's a $61,724 loss in general alimony taxes that fund the Parish General Fund, $205,725 less in an exempted municipalities tax, $364,067 less in the courthouse complex fund that pays the parish courthouse and jail and $519,649 less in drainage revenue. 

Increasing the millages would cost the owner of a $275,000 home $34.60 more per year.

Without increasing the millage, Chief Financial Officer Lorrie Toups said, additional cuts would need to be made in areas such as the courthouse complex fund, jail and parks and recreation.

Parish Council Chairman Kevin Naquin urged the council to approve the move to increase the property tax because the parish budget can't take further cuts.

"We’re struggling already as a parish and we're asking voters to give us what they did last year," he said. "I don’t think we're in a position to just roll the dice and see what happens."

For years, parish representatives have lamented that the parish government loses more tax revenue every year to the municipalities who annex revenue-producing businesses.

In 2019, Comeaux said, the parish government lost $454,000 in property tax revenue that would have gone to the Parish General Fund due to annexations.

The Parish General Fund has only a $50,000 balance, Naquin said. The city wants the parish to stand on its own and not rely on city subsidies, he said, but the parish lost $454,000 due to annexations, most of them to the city of Lafayette.

The Parish Council voted 4-0 to introduce an ordinance to increase the millage. Councilman A.B. Rubin was absent. The ordinance returns to the Parish Council in two weeks for final adoption.

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