Tax Commission hires firm for expert advice on value added tax collection

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FD1 board making changes following legislative audit

By Carolyn Roy carolyn@natchitochestimes.com (318-352-3618 ext. 219)

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The Fire District #1 board president and the interim fire chief spoke to the Parish Council Monday about progress the board is making to lower property insurance rates in the district that covers the Cloutierville area. The district has been plagued by complaints from residents for over a year that culminated with a scathing audit report from the Louisiana Legislative Auditor in September.

Parish President Rick Nowlin said he has requested attendance records of board members to examine if two of the men could be removed for the board for missing meetings. According to a Parish Council ordinance passed in May, a board member can be removed for missing three consecutive board meetings or for being absent for more than 75 percent of the regular meetings in a calendar year. Board president Ricky Sanders told the council that the board has made many changes.

He is addressing findings in the audit and developing a budget despite being on the defensive because of the complaints. He said he needs the council’s help to get the fire district back to where it should be. Interim Chief Patrick Hicks said he had been a service man and lineman for a utility company for 19 years and is familiar with the layout of the district. He is working with other fire districts and has taken a course on how to prepare the paperwork to get a lower fire rating.

Hicks said he has placed a rescue and pumper truck at Point Place and Jaws of Life on Hwy. 171 and at Point Place and Cloutierville. “Please give me about a year.” Hicks said.# In other business, council members approved the appointment of Juliette Moffett to the Natchitoches Parish Library Board and Billy Shugart to the Fire District 4 board. The council passed a resolution to ask the Natchitoches Tax Commission for an explanation of why no taxes were collected from the Chateau St. Denis Hotel on a “value added” package of $9.95 from its opening in December of 2016 to July 1, 2018. Parish President Rick Nowlin, who is a member of the Tax Commission board, said at a meeting last week, the board authorized Tax Commissioner Jerry McWherter to hire the firm of Barham and Warner in Shreveport. The firm has litigation experience in the areas of sales and use tax while representing taxing authorities and municipalities.

Nowlin said the La. Attorney General’s opinion that the back taxes must be collected was an opinion and the board wanted expert advice. He expects the opinion of the experts in a few weeks. In another resolution, the council voted to reject the bid for the ADA renovations to the courthouse. The bid was for $130,000 but only $100,000 was budgeted. By resolution, the council voted to hire the firm of Ashe, Broussard, Weinzettle, Architects, to design a plan for courthouse security. The budget is $960,000, half of which will come from the State and the other half from the local Government Buildings Fund. Nowlin said Parish Government has been saving money in the Government Buildings Fund for several years for the project. The council approved the proposed plans for property, inland marine, public officials, auto and workman’s comp insurance.

It also approved the Vantage Health plan for retirees. Their monthly premiums will increase from $259 to $263 monthly. Also by resolution, the council called for a special election in the newly created taxing district for road maintenance.

The taxing district does not include the city nor Campti. Parish Council offices will be closed Jan. 28 for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and birthday and Feb. 18 for Presidents Day.