Council not happy with outcome of tax agreement

DERON TALLEY, EDITOR @DeRonTalley

Donaldsonville councilman Rev. Charles Brown, Sr. stressed to the other council members his concern that citizens were not clearly informed about the tax increase situation in the common area that took effect on April 1.

Brown said he read some things on Facebook that says city councilmen raised the tax and are doing it to give themselves a raise, and other rumors are out in the community that just aren’t true.

“They think we are the ones that passed another city tax,” Brown said. “We didn’t vote on it period.”

Mayor Leroy Sullivan said he’s always on the blaming end of it as well saying it’s all his fault the sales tax in the Wal-Mart shopping area increased from nine percent to 11 percent due to an expired 10-year agreement between the parish and city.

Council chairman Raymond Aucoin said there are two misconceptions about the whole deal.

“We (the city) aren’t getting 11 percent,” Aucoin said. “Out of the 11 percent, the city is only getting two and a half percent.”

Councilman Lauthaught Delaney said what seems like is taking place is the City of Donaldsonville didn’t do anything to try to combat this.

“We had emails and texts going back and forth all day long the Friday before. After that, that was it,” Delaney said. “When it came down to the day of the sales tax being implemented, we didn’t do anything. We talked with city attorney about filing suit, but we haven’t had anymore dialogue about it since then.”

Aucoin said the only thing the parish presented for the city to accept in a new agreement was the 50/50 split of the sales tax revenue, which is part of parish’s ordinance that was implemented in 2009.

Mayor Sullivan said people think the city is being greedy and that it’s not trying to work out a deal, “they don’t understand it’s about survival for us.”

Brown said when you look at the whole dynamic of it, for the area’s future growth-wise the whole thing is 11 percent.

“Even if it’s buying houses in that area it’s going to be 11 percent,” Brown said. “And so when people are looking at that they aren’t going to want to buy so it kills not just us with the tax but also future growth of our community.”

“That basically tells us don’t grow,” Brown said. “Don’t grow.”

Delaney suggested the council take some sort of legal action against the parish’s ordinance.

Aucoin said in speaking with Mark West, Administrator for Ascension Parish Sales and Use Tax Authority, there is a procedure that the city can carve that out for the accommodation of the subdivision.

“It would only apply to the retail district. It could be done,” Aucoin said. “It would only apply to the taxing district that we define.”

The council’s biggest issue with the sharing revenue with the parish is that will “not spend a cent of the money in that area.”

“In the original agreement, they are recognizing that it is the city’s responsibility to provide infrastructure. Twice they say that,” Aucoin said.

Long said the rest of the 760 acres can’t be developed because there needs to be sewer and gas infrastructure and the cost for that is $6 million. So, the city has to invest $6 million to do what “we legally are responsible to do as a municipality for that property.”

“Where are you going to get the money,” Long said. “All the sharing agreement is about taking your two cents, the half cents is for streets. The sharing agreement says how much of your two cents are you going to give the other taxing entities, the parish and the sheriff. It’s about how much of the city’s two cents you want to give away.”

“The parish wants 50 percent of it,” Long said. “They don’t want to put a nickel towards the $6 million we need to put sewer in the other are to help develop so everybody could get more economic development, growth, housing, retail. That’s where the rub is. That’s the facts.”

Aucoin said the parish makes it clear they believe it’s their two cents and they are sharing it with us.

“They don’t see it as our two cents we are sharing with them,” Aucoin said.

Aucoin said the city is still open to a proposal, but “they have to give us one.”

Councilman Emile Spano added, “It’s the consumer who takes the hit. If a business wants to come it’ll come in and charge because it doesn’t hurt them. It only affects the consumer, us.”