RESPONSE TO COMMENTS REGARDING PROPOSED ROAD TAX – PARISH PRESIDENT RICK NOWLIN

The recent NPJ articles concerning the proposed one-half cent tax dedicated to Parish road repairs and improvements have drawn a number of comments from NPJ readers. The proposed tax is crucial to our effort to keep our roads passable and it is great to see so much interest in the tax election.

By means of this letter, we will attempt to address the points raised in the comments posted in the NPJ.

1. 100% of tax revenues should be spent on Parish roads:

We agree totally. The language of the ballot proposition requires that all tax revenue collected must be spent on Parish roads and bridges. It would be illegal to spend any of the money anywhere else.

2. None of the tax money should be spent inside of the City:

None of the road tax revenues can be spent inside of the City of Natchitoches or the Town of Campti. The reason is that both of these municipalities are already at the maximum sales tax permitted by state law and the tax will not be collected on sales in them.

3. The people need transparency on how the taxes are spent:

We agree totally. The Parish is committed to posting on its website the amount of tax revenue collected and how the money is being spent. In addition, all revenues and expenditures are included in the Parish accounting system and are audited by an independent auditor and by the state legislative auditor each year. The Parish budget for all departments has been added to the information on our web page and is available for viewing under the Finance Department.

4. Why not rededicate certain existing property taxes?

The rededication of property taxes presently going to other parish public entities would require the Parish Council to place the rededications on the ballot and it would have to be approved by the voters.

The rededication of taxes going to state entities (such as the Cane River Waterway District and the Red River Waterway Commission) would require a change in the state law that authorizes the tax. In addition, the RRWC is a seven-parish entity and it would be very difficult to get special tax treatment for one parish without affecting the tax situation in the other parishes. Without an agreement reached by all seven parishes, you could end up with a legislative battle pitting one parish or group of parishes against the others. This type of situation could result with no action being taken.

5. Why not a property tax rather than a sales tax?

The Parish Council chose to offer the voters a sales tax rather than a property tax. The primary reason appeared to be the fact that only about 50% of the residents of the Parish pay property taxes and everyone will pay sales taxes, even visitors to our Parish.

6. Why not do away with the industrial tax exemptions?

For decades industrial tax exemptions have been granted as incentives to companies to locate a new business here or expand an existing business in our area. They were typically for a 10-year period, after which the Parish began to collect the new taxes. In the past two years, the rules have changed to allow local government to decide whether to grant the exemption and how much of the tax should be exempted for the first 10 years. They also place an 80% cap of the amount of tax that can be exempted. In other words, the industry would pay at least 20% of the tax up front and 100% later. When a local government entity grants a tax exemption, it is not giving away tax dollars it is already receiving. It is accepting a lower tax payment for a set period of years in order to collect higher taxes down the road. In the meantime, the area gets the benefit of job growth and other economic impacts.

7. Why not use the “big truck tax” on road repairs?

The Parish does not receive any taxes collected from owners of big trucks. It does receive funds through the Parish Transportation Fund from the state in the amount of approximately $525,000 per year and these dollars are spent on our roads. The Parish also receives approximately $2,000,000 per year from the one-cent sales tax dedicated to solid waste and highways. Of this amount, $500,000 is spent on road repairs.

In addition, the Parish receives about $400,000 per year in severance tax funds from the state. Many years ago, the former Police Jury adopted a policy of using these funds to pay for some of the high cost of the public safety program and other Parish requirements. This includes the judicial system and the cost of incarceration of inmates at the detention center. Due to the high cost of required public safety programs and other mandated programs, the Parish has not been able to move the severance tax funds to the highway department.

8. Why not cut the fat in the Parish budget?

Going through the budget for ways to cut expenses is a regular part of the job of the Parish administration. No matter how much is cut, we look for ways to be more cost effective in what we do. One way administrative expenses have been cut is in the reduction in the general staff. In 2012, the last year under the police jury, the administrative staff budget was over $663,000. By 2014, the second year under the Home Rule Charter, the administrative cost had been reduced to under $458,000. The result was a savings of over $205,000 per year. One major action taken was to reduce the number of personnel in administration.

9. Stop spending dedicated funds on things not authorized?

This is one of those claims that has no basis in fact. While we cannot say for certain whether the Police Jury spent money unlawfully, we can say the HRC government has not. We are committed to making sure all dedicated funds are spent the way they are intended by the voters. Being transparent is one of the best ways to make sure this happens.

10. Enough property taxes are paid to blacktop our road:

One commenter claimed that “the ten large houses on my road pay enough in property tax to blacktop our road”. This is one of those statements that is not supported by the facts. A review of the tax records shows that the ten highest residential property taxes paid totaled about $81,000. The problem is that only about 3.7% (approximately $3,000) is dedicated to our roads and the other $78,000 is dedicated for other purposes. Since it takes from $250,000 to $300,000 to rebuild a mile of paved road, $3,000 would not get it done. Also, these ten highest residential property taxes paid were located on a number of different roads, not on the same road. This makes it even less likely any ten houses on any road would pay enough in road taxes to rebuild the road.

11. The Parish has no desire to fix the roads:

This comment saddens us greatly. The unfortunate truth is that the current allotment of tax dollars simply does not provide enough funding for the necessary labor, equipment and materials to adequately maintain the Parish roads. On March 30, 2019, we have an opportunity to take a step toward correcting this problem.

Thank you, for allowing me to respond to the road tax comments. We hope that our responses will better inform the public about the situation we are facing.

If there are any other questions concerning the proposed road tax, please contact the Parish at 318-352-2714.

Rick Nowlin


21 thoughts on “RESPONSE TO COMMENTS REGARDING PROPOSED ROAD TAX – PARISH PRESIDENT RICK NOWLIN

  1. are log truck and chicken trucks or any trucks taxed at all ? shouldn’t
    there be a road tax on heavy equipment ? It will get to be pretty soon where
    these roads are beyond repair and the stupid idea of throwing loose gravel
    in a pot hole doesn’t work.
    It is already gotten to be where I will drive on shoulder to avoid pot holes on Hwy 6 west and east bound.

  2. Well, early voting has started on this issue. Those of us who live in the city and in Campti don’t vote on this, the rest of the parish does. VOTE! whether you vote YES or vote NO have your voice heard.

  3. Industrial tax exemption for ten years is one thing but renewing the exemption and losing millions every year thereafter makes no sense.

  4. In a moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing. Theodore Roosevelt

  5. Sales tax takes a larger percentage of income from low-income groups than from high-income groups.It is referred to as a “regressive tax”. Mr. Nowlin says that The Parish Council chose to offer the voters a sales tax rather than a property tax.

    It’s a double edge sword and no one wants to pay taxes of any kind but in this this case a property tax increase would have been the better option.

  6. You can put any shade of lipstick on this pig, but it’s still a pig. To most of us this looks like a typical Louisiana politicians money grab. There have been no plans or proposals for road improvement presented to the public, just a “give me the money and we will spend it as we see fit”

  7. “The Parish Council chose to offer the voters a sales tax rather than a property tax. The primary reason appeared to be the fact that only about 50% of the residents of the Parish pay property taxes and everyone will pay sales taxes, even visitors to our Parish.” (statement from Rick Nowlen, copied here)

    I don’t understand this statement. True, if you rent, you do not pay a property tax, however the owner should be paying a property tax. That tax would be higher than the normal homestead tax rate, because it’s not the owners residence. So my question is: Are we collecting property tax on these properties from the property owner? If not, WHY? You gave so much a non-answer it felt like another snow job on the residents of the parish. Please clarify if these rental properties are being taxed and if not, why? Thank you very much. Also, if there are properties not being taxed, I would like to know why they are not being taxed.

    • Homestead exemption . If your property is valued under 75000, you don’t pay any property taxes.

  8. It’s important to understand how tax revenues are applied to our road maintenance and repairs. I appreciate the parish president’s response. Since the current administration doesn’t show a preference toward patronage, those residents who would not yet be satisfied might consider a cost sharing partnership to fix their road where the residents and the parish would share in the cost. A dedicated tax increase wouldn’t be as heavy a cost burden on the residents and the roads could still be properly repaired.

    • The CRWC was well within their powers to do the work on the riverbank. There is nothing in the state statues allow for those kind of projects to be completed with the funds generated.

      • What does building ramps and stages have to do with the maintenance of the river? NOTHING! That’s a state implemented tax and it is also a dedicated tax. So the powers that be do have the power to tap into any funds they like if that group agrees to it?? So they could have used OUR dedicated tax funds to fix up front Street when they could have used it on streets? So instead of benefiting the entire parish we benefit a few? Only good thing about it we all have a nice place to sit while our cars are being worked on! DEDICATED TAX? I THINK NOT! Jack up the prices on the new useless sports complex that the locals also had no say about! What’s sad is the locals wanting a indoor pool,but having to raise funds for something we need and actually want. VOTE NO ON ANY NEW TAX!

  9. Unfortunately the majority of Natchitoches Parish roads are in a state that can’t be repaired. They would have to start over on many of the roads. As we just seen on Highway 119 near Gorum, LA. The amount of effort & work practices to repair the roads are not up to par. Using street signs to repair holes in bridges and black topping over them surely can’t be a correct way to fix problems. Within 3 days those spots were holding water and starting to break down. I understand funding is a major part of repairing our roadways but if the workers that are hired to repair them don’t use proper techniques it will be an ongoing problem. Preventive maintenance of our roads is lacking. Without preventive maintenance our roads will remain in a condition that the only way to repair them is start over. I’ve lived in different places all over the world to include many 3rd world countries and Louisiana, specifically Natchitoches Parish is by far the worst I have ever seen. Iraq roads are in better condition than our Parish roads. This is really disappointing. However we rationalize repairs to our parishes roads I’m willing to bet even if the tax passed before the roads would be worked on there would be raises. Maybe if we were guaranteed the roads would be repaired before raises the tax would pass. Here is what the Parish residents would like to see from the Parish President & all involved, provide us a breakdown of when, where and how the roads would be repaired and we may get it passed. Give us a 4-5 year plan of the roads that would be fixed if the funds were passed. Give us something that you are willing to sign your name to. We need something to hold all involved accountable with. Without a written down plan we feel we have empty promises. Prove us wrong, show us our Parish is capable & provide a solid plan/outline and I believe we can get it passed.

      • Hugh, you need to check your facts. My husband and I have farmed for over 55 years and I assure you we pay property taxes. And to the person questioning if owners of rental property pay property taxes and the answer to that question is YES they do.
        I am truly amazed at some of the comments on this site. Ignorance must be bliss.

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