Conrad Comeaux, Lafayette Parish Tax Assessor, Explains How Local Government Is Funded

Conrad Comeaux, Tax Assessor for the Parish of Lafayette, joins Discover Lafayette to explain how taxes are levied and collected. Who pays what? How is the value of your home assessed? It all really hits home when you get this bill in the mail.

As a tax assessor since 2001, Conrad previously served on the Lafayette Parish Council from 1984 to 1996. A native of Scott, he graduated from USL, now UL-Lafayette, with degrees in biology and chemistry, and obtained a master’s degree in health administration. from Tulane University.

He has been active in integrating technology to help his office serve the public more efficiently and was the first appraiser in the state to post property values ​​online and the first in Lafayette Parish to produce a digital map of property plots.

He sees the office as apolitical and says “we’re here to do a job”. While many people may think that the tax assessor sets the tax costs and collects the taxes, in fact his office is only involved in determining the value of three things: land, buildings, and property. “Additional items” that affect the value (such as fences, swimming pools, and tennis courts). So when you receive your tax bills, they come from the sheriff and local municipalities, not the assessor.

Louisiana’s tax system differs from other states in the way taxes are calculated. In most states, terrain and improvements are combined to achieve a value; here we separate the features of the property (i.e. the land is valued separately from the improvements) and taxed at different rates. Land and residential buildings are valued at 10% of their market value; commercial buildings are valued at 15% of market value.

In a similar vein to Louisiana being different, in other states, property taxes are generally the largest generator of local income; here it is the sales tax.

The miles collected throughout the parish of Lafayette are very low compared to other parishes in Louisiana. In a few years. The millages of Lafayette parish represent half of those collected in St. Tammany parish. In fact, St. Tammany Parish school taxes are as high as those charged to us for all parish functions.

It can be difficult to assess residences in neighborhoods with a wide range of values, and he gave an example of how homes on the front of Kim Drive vary widely in value compared to those closer to the Vermilion River. Conrad’s office does a “mass appraisal,” which means they look at values ​​within a subdivision, or the streets of a subdivision, not each individual home. However, his office receives a copy of every cash bill of sale filed at the courthouse and uses the value listed on the sale as a frame of reference. If you don’t agree with your home’s estimated value, Conrad encourages you to call his office at (337)291-7080 to bring it to his attention. It will be adjusted if they find an error (such as overestimating the total area).

Conrad Comeaux, the tax assessor of the parish of Lafayette, will inform the councils of local communities on tax revenues and the implications of their decisions on their votes to maintain or increase mileage. Their decisions can have a long-term impact on ensuring adequate levels of funding for mandated government services.

Reassessments are generally carried out every four years. The appraiser’s office will review the sales over a period of time to update the values. As an example, for the 2020 reassessment, they looked at sales made six months before and six months after January 2019 to determine current values. With dramatic fluctuations in market values, this process can cause people to wonder how a value was obtained, but it is important to remember that the valuation is based on a value from a few years ago. If your home is damaged by fire or hurricane and its value is greatly affected, please contact the appraiser’s office to report the event and the appraised value will be adjusted accordingly.

Once the reassessment is complete, the appraiser’s office determines the total appraised value of all properties in the parish. If it is generally down, the local tax authorities are authorized to raise vintages to bring in the same revenues as the previous year. This process is “a maximum adjustment” permitted by the Louisiana Constitution. On the other hand, if the total assessed value of all land in the parish has increased, all tax bodies must lower the vintages to bring in the same income as the previous year. But state law then allows the body, by a 2/3 vote, to increase the mileage to the previous year’s maximum, known as the “forward roll”. If the tax authorities do not vote to adjust the vintages before the next revaluation period, the opportunity is lost to reach the new maximum, which can lead to future deficits.

As property taxes are the most stable form of public funding, it is essential for every tax agency not only to examine the current flow of tax revenue, but also to anticipate future funding when times may not be right. to be as good and that the prices have gone up due to inflation. Conrad looks back on the first four years of consolidation when the Lafayette vintages were not postponed. This inaction of years ago has resulted in deficits over time, especially for parish-mandated services such as courthouse and prison maintenance, and negatively affects the funding available for them. other needs.

For the first time since the oil crash of the 1980s, the value of commercial land and improvements actually fell due to the COVID shutdown in 2020. Restaurants, hotels, and oilfield service buildings all have experienced a huge drop in value.

Parish miles dedicated to drainage, roads and bridges are paid for by all residents of the parish of Lafayette, yet historically the funds have always been primarily used to meet needs in the unincorporated areas of the parish. While residents of every town in the parish may lament this fact, Conrad explained that “the water doesn’t stop at the outer limits of every town. We are all affected by conditions in the outlying regions and benefit to some extent from these services.

Assessed land values ​​(10% of market value) in the parish have roughly doubled since Conrad took office in 2001. At that time, assessed land values ​​were around $ 1.16 billion. ; today they are valued at $ 2.2 billion. In the town of Lafayette, assessed property values ​​amounted to $ 678 million; today the value is $ 1.545 billion.

“Of all the things I have done during my tenure, the only vote I regret is to vote for consolidation. We used Baton Rouge as an example, which seemed to work well at the time. Fast forward to now, check out what’s going on in the city of Baton Rouge. Now you have people leaving Baton Rouge and trying to incorporate the city of St. George. And Central didn’t exist 20 years ago. Now look at Lafayette. The city of Lafayette has always been the driving force behind this train… but will the city itself be as dynamic as it once was? I don’t know because the city cannot grow as it should to be a vibrant city. If we lose that ability to grow, we’ll end up as Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish, which is a shame. We could fall by the wayside. But people say look at what’s going on in Youngsville, Broussard, Scott and Carencro! What is happening is that it erodes what is happening in Lafayette. The City of Lafayette no longer has a mayor. He has his own council to a certain extent, but it is not quite the same as being separated from the ward. Therein lies part of the problem with what is going on here. How many art studios are there in these other communities, how many performing arts centers or the cultural things that made Lafayette great. People don’t remember why Vermilionville was created in the first place. We forget that the investments in Vermilionville were made following the oil crisis of the 1980s in order to diversify our economy. Studies show that the longer you keep tourists in your city, the more they spend. If you take away these amenities, why would tourists want to come here? “

It is worth asking the assessor for legal benefits known as “discounts” that are given to certain groups of people. One of these programs is the Senior Freeze, which is available to people 65 years of age and over who have adjusted gross income of $ 100,000 or less. The value of your property is frozen on the date of your application, which only needs to be filed once for the rest of your life. Although your tax bill may change over time, the assessed value will not change. Similar benefits are provided by law for injured veterans who must apply each year for the freeze to apply.

There has been a disturbing increase in tax sales lately, which is legal but regrettable. Businesses from out of town have come in and paid taxes on properties whose legal owners failed to meet their payments. Although Conrad’s office is not notified of sales until they receive notice of tax-registered sales, they have seen a noticeable increase in this process. Most of those affected do not know how to fight the process or do not have the financial means to fix the problem by paying back taxes.

Remember to file a property exemption request when purchasing a new home. You save approximately $ 640 annually on your tax bill by filing this simple document at the appraiser’s office and benefiting from a tax exemption on the first $ 75,000 of the value of your home.

For more information, visit https://www.lafayetteassessessor.com/ or call (337) 291-7080.

Thank you, Conrad Comeaux, for your long-standing commitment to community service!