Tax Assessor’s office looks to do aerial imagery

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @dvillechief

The Ascension Parish Tax Assessor M.J. “Mert” Smiley, Jr. has been on a mission to improve the work of his job since being sworn into office at the beginning of the year. His latest plan is to improve the offices’ technology and get an aerial image of the parish with a group called Pictometry who does oblique photography. With the oblique photography, the Smiley will be able to evaluate all properties in the parish and its improvements or updates.

“I’m tremendously excited about it,” Smiley said.

When he was running for office, he said a lot of people told him there was a lot of property not on the tax rolls and so he made that part of his campaign.

“I said I was going to make sure that all the properties were on the tax rolls because that’s something that need to be so different entities of government can have the money to work with without having to ask for additional taxes,” Smiley said.

According to Smiley, the reason why some properties “slid between the cracks” is because there were only two field people to handle “the fastest growing parish in the state” with over 50,000 parcels of land.

When his term began, he hired temporary part-time employees to survey and they started finding unidentified properties. He said every parcel was on the list, but not its improvements.

“It would show a parcel without a house on it, we found tons of that.”

Smiley said he could have kept doing it like that and maybe in five or six years be caught up where he needed to be, but learning from other assessors and going to conferences he learned about Pictometry.

They’re telling me that I can be finished with this process in a year,” Smiley said. “When I finish in a year, all the other entities of government will see this extra money will be substantial.”

Smiley and his office came up with proposals for each entity of government in the parish and have begun discussing the technology program and how it could benefit the entity as well. The technology program costs approximately $400,000 and Smiley is asking each entity of government to put up its proportional share of what they collect.

Smiley said he talked to the Ascension Parish School Board Superintendent Patrice Pujol about it first because the school board gets about 62 percent in ad valorem taxes. Smiley said he asked the superintendent if the school board could help pay for the program, and said he informed Pujol it will benefit the school board in the end. He also presented his program to Sheriff Jeff Wiley at the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, and went to Parish council, and city councils as well.

Donaldsonville Mayor Leroy Sullivan said the Tax Assessor’s Office asked the City of Donaldsonville for $3,000 to help fund its program.

“It’ll be beneficial and we should be able to collect more ad valorem taxes because if there is property not being assessed correctly then we’ll see an increase in property taxes collected for our city, parish and everybody,” Mayor Sullivan said.

Smiley said he hopes to get each entity to approve by the end of August and said once the program is approved “we are going to have the technology necessary to do our job.”

Smiley said Pictometry is used by more counties/parishes than most other aerial imagery companies and they do quality work. Smiley said he anticipates they are going to do a flyover in January or February.

Smiley added, “It’s just a technology program to make sure my office has enough technology to do our job properly.”