BR.wildarchexercise.adv 0034 bf.jpg

In the shade of a stately oak tree at BREC's City Park, Sarah Mayo participates in an exercise class doing squats under the arch as son Jennings Mayo, 2, relaxing in the stroller, watches Wednesday September 9, 2020, in Baton Rouge, La. The exercise class gets together for an hour, Monday thru Saturday, but at different locations each day across Baton Rouge. Strollers are welcome and the classes are open to all women.

Property owners in East Baton Rouge Parish will receive some relief on their tax bills after the city-parish's parks and recreation system opted to slightly reduce its millage rates for at least the next four years. 

BREC's Board of Commissioners made a unanimous decision to roll back the rates at which the parks system levies its voter-approved tax rates from 14.463 mills to 13.702 mills. 

Local taxing entities have the option to reduce, or "roll back," property tax rates or to levy at the legal maximum, or "roll forward," their rates during parishwide reassessment years. East Baton Rouge Parish reassessed properties this year, and assessments often go up.  

A "roll forward," which would have basically been the parks and recreation system continuing to levy the property tax at its current level, would have generated an additional $3.5 million for BREC. 

According to data from the city-parish's Assessor's Office, the owners of a residential property with an assessed value of $150,000 would have faced an annual increase of $5.70 on their tax bills. 

No one from the public spoke at a public hearing BREC held Thursday to weigh in either for or against the proposition to roll forward millage rates. Commissioner only received one emailed comment in opposition from a taxpayer who assert the parks and recreation system should decrease its expenses instead of trying to take in more money. 

In his remarks to the commissioners Thursday night, BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson acknowledged the community's economic struggles in regards to the pandemic, and said BREC amenities and expanded services can help mitigate spread of the respiratory illness by keeping residents healthy.  

"We're prepared to join the community in tightening our belts; finding other sources of income beyond tax dollars," Wilson said during the meeting. "We're committed to using our existing resources to fund our most pressing needs." 

BREC was just one of nearly 17 taxing entities that had wanted to roll forward their millage rates this year to generate additional revenue. 

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber this week encouraged all the parish's taxing agencies to roll back their property tax rates given the financial hardships many businesses and households faced this year as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On Tuesday, the Capital Area Transit System decided to roll back its millage rate instead of roll forward, which the body was considering, to generate good will among taxpayers struggling to rebound during the ongoing pandemic.  

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, something CATS' attorney challenges. 


Email Terry Jones at tjones@theadvocate.com