Terrebonne Parish Council member Jessica Domangue (Photo: –)
It’s 1987. The Louisiana Transportation Department has started construction of perhaps the most transformative public works project in Terrebonne Parish history: a modern five-lane extension of Tunnel Boulevard later known as Martin Luther King Boulevard. A complete afterthought is it just so happens to meander through the uninhabited swamps and cane fields of mostly one single recreation district formed years earlier.
For property taxes to support recreation, people often think in terms of residential property. However, commercial development has a much more profound impact.
First, commercial properties are not subject to the homestead exemption, which shields the first $75,000 of a home’s value from property taxes.
Second, commercial buildings are assessed at 15% of fair market value rather than the 10% for homes.
Third, merchandise, fixtures and equipment are assessed at 15% of fair market value.
Recreation District 2-3 is the most heavily subsidized district from commercial development. Businesses pay about $1,051,771, or 65%, of the district’s total budget, according to the parish Assessor’s Office. Much of this figure comes from dozens of faceless, non-voting national corporations along MLK Blvd. that do not utilize any recreation resource whatsoever. For example, this year alone, Target pays $8,134, Wal-Mart pays $13,229, Home Depot pays $8,725, and Lowe’s pays $12,447.
Some people delight in that Rec 2-3 has the lowest millage, or property tax rate, in the parish at 5 mills. Frankly, most of the 11 recreation districts in Terrebonne could be at 5 mills if they received the MLK Blvd. Subsidy every year.
This subsidy drives to the heart of efforts to thwart modernizing recreation in our parish, invoking a philosophical debate on conservative values.
On one hand, its indisputable some degree of reorganizing the districts would result in better stewardship of taxpayer money: less duplication of costs, better economies of scale and less potential for waste, fraud, and abuse. As such, it would mean less taxes need to be collected to pay for recreation facilities like gyms and parks. It would lower property taxes for tens of thousands of residents. These all sound like pillars of conservatism.
On the other hand, it would require residents of Rec 2-3 to divide the unearned MLK Blvd. Subsidy with more residents across the parish who also spend their taxpayer money at these businesses. Even though the parish would be collecting less money in taxes and have less bureaucracy, there exists the potential for a slight millage increase for residents of Rec 2-3. In an alternative interpretation of conservatism, that is a deal breaker.
More: Panel gets started on possible reforms to Terrebonne’s recreation system
More: Council member: Let’s ask Terrebonne voters whether to consolidate rec districts
If we are to apply this same standard of conservatism to national legislation, then logically, we should be opposed to the Republican-led Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017. It resulted in historic tax cuts, triggered economic growth and fostered smaller