Property owners in many areas hit hard by Hurricane Ida can seek breaks on their tax bills, similar to relief granted on a broad scale following the 2016 flood.
Hurricane Ida hit Louisiana Aug. 29, its eye moving northward from Port Fourchon through St. James, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa and St. Helena parishes before entering Mississippi early the next day. Many parishes in its path are offering breaks — even East Baton Rouge, which was on the weaker side of the storm but still felt the impact.
“What we’d like for any property owner to do is, if they have damage due to Hurricane Ida, they give us a call,” East Baton Rouge Parish Assessor Brian Wilson said Tuesday. “We’ll absolutely go out and take a look and give relief where it’s warranted.”
Any structural or water damage would qualify, but Wilson said there’s no way to know exactly what relief could look like until his assessors view the damage,which he said wasn’t as widespread in the city-parish as it was in places to the south and east.
“We didn’t catch the brunt of the storm,” he said.
Livingston, which with Tangipahoa fared worst among Baton Rouge-area parishes, intends to give assessment breaks. Individual taxing districts may also reduce rates, Livingston Assessor Jeff Taylor said.
“We’re definitely going to give breaks on assessments, which will lead to some tax breaks for people,” Taylor said. “The districts can vote to lower some of their millages if they want to."
“If someone comes in, they need to bring pictures, they need to bring an estimate from a licensed contractor, and if they can’t do that we will go out and inspect it ourselves,” he said. “As long as it’s a current quote, post-storm, we’re going to give them the break for that, whatever that amount is.”
In Ascension and St. James parishes, assessors have placed online application forms on their websites so residents can seek property tax breaks. Property owners must document their damage and allow inspections.
Ascension Assessor M.J. “Mert” Smiley Jr. said the tax breaks will be reserved for property owners who have had extensive damage that affects a building’s structural integrity and makes a property mostly unlivable or unusable.
After the August 2016 flood, East Baton Rouge and Livingston parishes offered across-the-board breaks to the owners of tens of thousands of structures. Smiley’s office offered more tailored reductions generally based on the depth of flooding. Most homes in Ascension received between a 40% and 50% cut, officials said at the time.
Smiley said the tax breaks this time will be tied to individual damage and prorated for the amount of time people are out of homes or businesses.
“Once they get it fixed, they will go back to the tax amount as previously” assessed, Smiley said.
Closer to where the storm came ashore, relief could be available even more broadly.
St. Charles Parish has said it will do a complete reassessment of properties, while in Jefferson Parish something similar is likely for Grand Isle and other hard-hit regions. Orleans Parish plans a general reduction based on the power being out for so long following the storm. It and some other parishes have asked taxpayers to come forward with additional requests for adjustments before 2021 tax bills are prepared.