Tomorrow, Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen plans to take input from parish residents about rolling forward property tax rates to fund operation of his department. If the last time he sought such input is any indication, in the near future he will announce taxes are going up – regardless of whether it best serves the people.
The Louisiana Constitution ensures that when the quadrennial evaluation of property tax valuations occurs that the same overall revenue be maintained, meaning the ad valorem rate is decreased, unless a local government’s governing authority promulgates reinstatement up to the authorized rate. That requires a two-thirds vote – unless the authority is a single officer, such as a sheriff, who need only announce the fact at least 30 days after a public announcement then subsequent hearing on the matter.
Thus Deen has set the table to do so, having last bumped the rate back up in 2005. He has set his sights on going from the current 12.10 mills to the maximum allowed 13.51, an increase of over 11 percent. That desire also contradicts what he said through his spokesman Ed Baswell in 2008, when he argued that increasingly difficult economic times for the citizenry was good reason not to raise rates – and phrased it as “saving Bossier Parish taxpayers almost $900,000.” In mid-2010, with conditions little better if at all, Deen suddenly has changed his mind.
But inconsistency in explanations pales in comparison to the negative results of financial analysis of the worthiness of this request. In 2000, the BPSO raised $8.857 million, of which $3.683 million came from the property tax, and spent $7.411 million, the difference increasing net assets to $3.683 million. In 2005, the time of the last increase, revenues were up to $22.444 million, of which $5.336 million came from property tax and expenses increased to $18.730 million. Last year, revenues were $35.106 million of which $8.701 million were from property taxes, expenses added up to $34.133 million, leaving net assets at right around $38 million.
For those of you unwilling to calculate all of this in your heads, those are increases over 9 years of 296 percent in revenues, 361 percent in expenses, property tax revenues – with just a 2005 roll forward – of 136 percent, and assets exploding 932 percent. Oh, and by the way, the parish population outside of municipal boundaries increased only about 12 percent.
Did all of this empire building have an impact on crime rates? Maybe: looking at the statistics that are the most comparable from the last increase until the last full results in 2008, in per capita terms reviewing the kinds of offenses with significant numbers, aggravated assaults were down 4 percent, property crimes were down about 18 percent, battery was down about 12 percent, larceny/theft was down about 18 percent, and motor vehicle crimes were down about 38 percent. In aggregate numbers, that meant crime was down about 14 percent. Of course, some of this decline is accounted for a falling young male population and better economic times, but some of it may have been a result of policing policy.
Still, when viewing the enormous increase in resources being sucked from taxpayers compared to the small return in reduced crime (if we can even attribute that to greater deployment of resources), even a person that puts the great primacy on heightened law enforcement must question whether this is a sufficient return on investment. The questions become more penetrating when considering whether tax dollars really needed to be spent on a SWAT team, or pontoon boats, or equipping citizen volunteers to cope with the possible end of days (controversial, but relatively low cost)?
Thus one must wonder where common sense has gone when Baswell, in describing Deen’s support for the increase, explain the rationale as being “when he thinks something is a quality of life issue then he tries to get it, at the best possible price, of course. Some of those things are expensive.” Of more relevance to taxpayers is a recounting why there has been an explosion of spending for relatively little return, which Deen has not volunteered.
As it is, with such extravagant spending there seems really no need for any additional resources to be culled from the citizenry. Unless Deen comes up with some fantastic, unanticipated arguments otherwise in relation to this hearing, any roll forward would disserve the public. And if he unilaterally persists in taking more money away from the people, then the people need to consider getting somebody in office that will better serve them come next election.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 00:00