Council keeps tax rate, increasing tax yield

Aaron E. Looney

During its meeting in the council chambers Thursday, the Ascension Parish Council adopted an ordinance to set millage rates on property taxes collected to the same levels as they were last year.

Parish Chief Financial Officer/Treasurer Gwen LeBlanc said that while the rates remained the same, an increase in property values means that the parish would collect more taxes.

The reassessments were done in accordance with state law, as 2008 fell as a reassessment year for residential property.

Earlier in the week, Assessor Rene Mire Michel said she believed that the parish would see an approximate 4 percent increase in property values. She said that while the parish kept its rates the same, other taxing entities in the parish such as the Ascension Parish Sheriff's Office and the School Board would likely do the same.

Before Thursday's meeting, members of the council met as the Finance Committee and discussed how it can increase revenues at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

During his report, center manager Eddie Crawford - who represents management company SMG - told the committee that while revenues figures are low, the center is still booking more events than facilities its size and even larger.

Parish government currently leases the facility, which has lost money in the past few years, from the Lamar-Dixon Foundation, with an option to purchase the site.

However, committee members questioned how the parish is still losing money - more than $1 million since taking over the facility in 2002 - if event bookings are high.

The committee told Crawford that it would like to see a plan created to bring more high-dollar events to the center in an effort to raise revenues.

Crawford told the committee that many large-scale event coordinators are fearful of booking with Lamar-Dixon because they are uncertain about the future of the complex.

Parish President Tommy Martinez also introduced a proposed survey to the committee to poll public opinion on numerous topics in the parish including the Lamar- Dixon Expo Center, parishwide sewer treatment and expansion of fire protection services, among others.

Martinez said that the poll, to be paid for by executive funds and be distributed to 400 parish residents, would be used to gauge the public's view of prioritizing such projects and the willingness to pay a half-cent sales tax to fund them.