Following the tax trail: Property taxes fund government operations

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By Juanice Gray, jgray@natchitochestimes.com

You paid your property taxes by Dec. 31.

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Now, where does that money go?

Property taxes paid by residents and businesses owners in both the City of Natchitoches and the Parish of Natchitoches are used to fund government operations. Property taxes are local taxes that provide the largest source of money local governments use to pay for schools, streets, roads, fire protection and many other services. The property tax rates that appeared on your bill are listed in millage rates.

A mil is equal to $1 of tax for every $1,000 of assessed taxable value. Aside from the parishwide 58.21 mil everyone pays, property owners and businesses are only charged the mils in their district, much like in elections where only the races in your district are on the ballot. For example, someone in Fire Dist. 4 pays only that millage. They do not pay property tax on fire districts where they do not reside.

The same is true for school districts and others. One example is Road Dist. 40. It is only collected from those residing outside Natchitoches City limits. The millage rate is 5.0, therefore those who pay the Road Dist. 40 tax pay $5 per $1,000 of assessed property value. If your property is valued at $100,000, you would pay $500.

Collectively, if everyone required to pay the Road Dist. 40 tax did so, it would have generated an estimated $1,332,000 for roads. Other notable taxes are Consolidated School Districts 9 and 7. If everyone paid, at a millage of 15, the estimated tax collected for Dist. 9 would be $3,259,000 and at a millage of 23.5 in Dist. 7, the amount would be $1,781,000.

The Red River Waterway Commission millage is 2.34 which generates roughly $895,000.

Mapping software that produces detailed aerial images such as the one above of NSU is one of the tools the assessors office uses to determine property values. Photo courtesy NP Tax Assessor’s Office

The parishwide millage rate of 58.21 generates an approximate $22,356,000. That 58.21 is a compilation of several smaller millages. They are ambulance, 5.31; assessment district, 3.72; Cane River Waterway maintenance, 6; general school, 4.650; health unit, 2.94; law enforcement 1, 8.03; law enforcement 2, 9.77; library, 7.85; public buildings, 2.94; and special school district, 7. These entities operate on the funds generated by these millages.

The millage totals are called the tax roll, which is compiled by the Tax Assessor.

Tax Assessor Tim Page explained the process of assessing property value and how the taxes collected are distributed. The assessor’s duty is to discover, list and value property. The assessor does not set the millage rates or distribute the funds collected. Distribution is the responsibility of each entity that receives a piece of the property tax pie. Millages are determined primarily in the voting booth, however a select few are determined by the legislature.

Page and his staff utilize their own mapping software and aerial photos that is updated roughly every four years. “Having good photos to go by is an advantage,” Page said. They are useful in determining square footage of property to help determine value. They also utilize permits, floor plans and even send some property owners forms to assist in the assessments. Every property in the parish is visited and photos are taken to ensure the most accurate assessment is made.

He said all land is assessed at 10% regardless of where it is or what is on it. The value of the structures on it can vary greatly. He said property values on Keyser Avenue will be different from property in a rural area for example, however the actual land is 10%. The Sheriff’s Office is the tax collector for the Parish and the Natchitoches Tax Commission is the tax collector for the City.

Page said the Assessor’s office has an open door policy. “Anyone concerned about their property values or if they qualify for homestead exemption, I encourage them to come into the office,” he said.

In print Jan. 30-31, 2021