In Caddo Parish, voters must judge three property tax renewals of the Caddo parish School District. They service ongoing concerns and do not constitute new construction or hiring. A surcharge for Fire District #4 and in Bossier Parish a property tax for Benton Fire District #4 also appear.
Voters in both will consider the renewal of the 2.5 mill tax paid by property owners in the parishes. First imposed in 1994, it actually does not terminate through 2018, so the renewal would come nearly two years prior to the tax’s extinguishment.
The timing has raised some questions, as well as the necessity of the tax. Prior to the tax, the site had little in the way of activity and tenancy, but since then has come a long way. Most of the acreage now has occupants, and it has relatively new infrastructure, so an argument that the tax could pay for start-up developmental costs largely has disappeared.
Further, the Port’s financial health looks pretty good. Without the tax that pulled in around $6.2 million in the last year data are available, 2014, the Port would have run a small operational deficit. However, discounting infrastructure depreciation and other amortization costs, it would have run a surplus of a few million dollars without the tax proceeds – an amount that can go higher as its interest costs will decline sharply after 2018 with relatively few capital expenditures needed in the existing area for the foreseeable future.
The Port presents as justification the continued stream of taxpayer largesse can finance new land acquisitions. Expanding across state Highway 1 and/or onto the Bossier side can create more business and therefore jobs, as backers of the renewal allege, pointing to growth over the past couple of decades.
Undoubtedly with increased area more economic activity could come. But the logical fallacy in the pro-tax argument is that the tax is necessary to produce that. The Port now generates plenty of own resources to finance land purchases and infrastructure improvements (and still gets some assistance from state and local governments for this), with over three years’ worth of tax proceeds available as unrestricted short-terms assets. There’s no reason it could not leverage this available cash into borrowing for capital improvements.
In conjunction with expansion plans, others have suggested a less public-spirited motive for the tax’s renewal and why now: its facilitation of buying land that would interfere with the extension of state highway 3132. The Port appears to aim for land that would block either corridor, freeing up land at the other end of the proposed route for developers if the route never manifests. The argument goes that the reputed interests involved in not wanting the extension have alliances with the port’s commissioners (appointed by Shreveport, Bossier City, Caddo Parish, and Bossier Parish). The more money available to the Port for land acquisition, the faster it can follow through, potentially prior to cordoning off the land in question for the extension.
Note as well that the Port makes concessions and acts as a pass-through financing device for its tenants, giving those favored few a competitive advantage. Ironically, elsewhere other businesses end up subsidizing these arrangements through their paying of the tax while generally the Port pays no property taxes.
Despite its rich monetary reserves and the potential for future revenues, the Port might have a case if the requested tax had a smaller amount for fewer years. However, no genuine justification exists to commit to another quarter century of dedicated taxation to it at the same level.
At a certain point the chicks must leave the nest. It’s time to send this middle-ager out into the real world on its own by defeating this unneeded handout that takes from what people earn.