The board of the Capital Area Transit System voted Tuesday to reduce the rate at which it taxes property in Baton Rouge and Baker after a parishwide reassessment resulted in increased property values for many residents. 

The decision "rolls back" the tax rate from 10.6 mills for both municipalities to 10.060 mills for Baton Rouge and 9.6 mills for Baker. A "mill" is one dollar of tax for every $1,000 in taxable property value.

Board President Mark Bellue said prior to the vote that he hoped the move would generate good will with taxpayers, many of whom are experiencing significant economic hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns. 

The increased property values had originally placed CATS on track to collect as much as $1.1 million in additional revenue if it decided to maintain, or "roll forward," its current tax rate, but the board's decision to forgo those funds won't shortchange the agency's coffers.

CATS is still set to reap tax revenues that are on par with previous years. 

This year the assessed value of taxable properties in the parish jumped from $4.47 billion to $4.72 billion, according to Parish Assessor Brian Wilson. 

Like all local governments that benefit from property taxes, CATS has to choose whether to reduce tax rates or maintain them at current rates — a decision these taxing agencies address every four years after properties are reassessed. 

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Prior to the vote, Creighton Abadie, an attorney for CATS, said the board has the option next year to reverse its decision and increase tax rates, citing opinions from the state's Attorney General and the Louisiana Legislative Auditor. 

The East Baton Rouge Parish School Board decided Monday to wait a month before setting property tax values after attorneys for the school system said the decision couldn't be reversed for at least four years. 

CATS' Tuesday meeting also featured a protest from members of the Amalgamated Transit Union who demanded better oversight of taxpayer dollars and charged the agency's leadership with mismanagement. 

"We just want to make sure that as stewards of the transit system … that the funding is being provided and allocated in places where it should go to enhance the transit system," said Anthony Garland, the international vice president of the ATU. 

Amie McNaylor, a spokesperson for CATS, said the agency does not comment on personnel and union matters. 

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