N.O. homeowners get chance to challenge tax assessments _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- The 30-day window for challenging assessments in New Orleans opened on Monday. Homeowners have until August 15 to make their case. In stark contrast to past years where citizens often lined up out the door, there was little if no waiting at the office of New Orleans Assessor Erroll Williams.

The window for New Orleans homeowners to challenge their property tax assessments has arrived again, as it does each summer. But the long lines that used to stretch out of the assessor’s office on the fourth floor of City Hall may be gone for good.

Anyone who wants to argue for a smaller tax bill for his home or business can go to one of three locations between now and Aug. 15: City Hall; the Algiers Courthouse, 225 Morgan St.; and the second floor of the Lakeview Christian Center, 5885 Fleur de Lis Drive.

All will be open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. No appointments are necessary.

The multiple locations, a new online system for filing appeals and an extra two weeks to turn them in appear to have all but eliminated the long waits that used to make the process such a chore.

Assessor Erroll Williams, with an assist from the Legislature, put those policies in place last year, and he said he saw little crowding as a result. He expects things to go smoothly this year as well. His waiting room was nearly empty Tuesday, the first day of appeals.

“So far, it doesn’t look that bad, though you never know,” he said. “Going in at last minute — that’s human nature.”

Williams took charge as New Orleans’ first citywide assessor in 2011, replacing seven district assessors. Instead of doing one citywide reassessment every four years, which was the old practice, he has been gradually working his way through the city, neighborhood by neighborhood, each year.

This year, Williams said, he has sent out about 20,000 letters to homeowners whose property values have changed, mostly in Central City, the 7th Ward and the Upper 9th Ward.

Homeowners who received a reassessment in the latest round of adjustments should have received letters by now. If they decide to challenge the assessment in person, they need to bring their letter along with evidence to support their claim of a lower value, which might include a recent appraisal, photos, insurance documents or a builder’s contract.

Homeowners can also pursue a challenge online, beginning July 22, at www.nolaassessor.com, or they can appeal to the New Orleans City Council, which acts as the parish Board of Review, hiring third-party experts to assess properties and make recommendations in specific cases.

All appeals, whether in person or online, must be submitted to the assessor no later than 4 p.m. Aug. 20.

Williams, who won re-election without facing any opponent in February, said he has completed his assessment of just about every property in the city within the past four years. The whole process will start again Jan. 1.