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Sunday, September 16, 2018



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Lafourche tax revenue suffers largest drop in decades, Terrebonne’s remains stable

Lafourche tax revenue suffers largest drop in decades, Terrebonne’s remains stable


 

Lafourche Parish is feeling the trickle-down effects of low oil and gas prices two years later, Tax Assessor Wendy Thibodeaux said.

Taxable property values in Lafourche Parish dropped by almost 10 percent, or $103.7 million, in 2017. That is the largest recorded drop shown in records since since 1975. The second-largest drop occurred when values decreased by 6.33 percent, or $13 million, in 1986.

The decreased property values last year meant that tax revenue went down $11.7 million from 2016 to 2017.

Thibodeaux said she anticipated the drop at the end of 2016 by looking at the local economy and the decline in oil and gas prices. Property tax revenue usually sees the effects about two years later, she said.

Those effects later trickle down to residential real estate, a trend she is now starting to notice in Thibodaux as home prices are decreasing.

Because watercraft make up about 38 percent of the parish’s total taxable value, they’re a good indicator of the local economy, Thibodeaux said.

The housing market is nowhere near as accurate as indicators, she said. As a result, Lafourche property tax collections will dip below collections from 2013 for the first time.

Collections are estimated to be around $120.5 million for 2017. In 2013, collections were $122.5 million and had grown to $132.2 million by 2016.

Property tax collections in Lafourche were steadily growing since 2006, according to statistics provided by the assessor’s office.

For 2018, Thibodeaux said, she is predicting another 5 percent to 8 percent drop in taxable value.

“I’m optimistic it’s not going to be as much,” she said.

Terrebonne Parish property tax revenue, meanwhile, has fared better. Terrebonne revenue for 2017 increased by about $1.7 million, or about 1.9 percent, from 2016.

Terrebonne’s total property tax revenue for 2017 was lower than Lafourche, reaching about $92.4 million.

However, the totals can be deceiving, Terrebonne Assessor Loney Grabert said.

A reassessment in 2016 helped the parish recover some losses on the business side. In 2017, some larger boats were added to the parish’s rolls that helped increase the total value, he said.

“The good thing is still we’re showing positive result. How long we can maintain that, I don’t know,” Grabert said.

Since 2013, Terrebonne property tax collections have steadily increased by a total of 9.5 percent, with each year ranging from 0.1 percent to 4.7 percent increases.

“We’re not as heavily relied on the marine industry,” Parish President Gordy Dove said. “We have more machine shops and manufacturing shops that are diversified in other areas.”

Terrebonne’s shipyards are also diversified into non-oilfield markets, Dove said.

While real estate in Terrebonne is slowing down, with inventory increasing and homes remaining on the market for longer periods of time, Grabert said, that represents just a portion of the overall property tax revenue. Business properties account for about 70 percent to 80 percent of the tax base, he said.

Sales tax collections also dropped slightly in Lafourche Parish from 2016 to 2017, while Terrebonne saw a slight increase.

Lafourche sales tax fiscal years run from July to June, but according to monthly collection totals, the parish collected $73.9 million in 2016 and $72.4 million in 2017.

Terrebonne sales tax collections were higher, bringing in about $115.8 million in 2016 and $116.4 million in 2017.

Motor vehicle tax collections in Terrebonne also increased by about 6 percent, up to $11.1 million, while hotel and motel taxes decreased by 3.4 percent to roughly $1.2 million.

Dove said the parish is predicting a 2.75 percent increase in sale tax revenue in 2018.

If Terrebonne’s revenue keeps increasing, Dove said, he hopes to restore some of the budget cuts made to his departments and give employees a 2 percent cost of living raise.

Lafourche Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle did not return requests for comment.

 

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @gingerale214.