NEW ORLEANS -- On Saturday, October 12, voters will decide the fate of the proposed Amendment 4. It requires statewide approval but would only affect New Orleans.
Here's how it will read on your ballot:
“Do you support an amendment to protect taxpayers by requiring a complete remedy
in law for the prompt recovery of any unconstitutional tax paid and to allow the jurisdiction of the Board
of Tax Appeals to extend to matters related to the constitutionality of taxes?” (Adds Article V, Section
New Orleans wants to change its property tax options. It's a chance that can only be made using an amendment to the constitution. So voters across Louisiana will have to approve Amendment 4 even though it only affects New Orleans.
"There are so many things that we could do with Amendment Four," John Pourchiau told WGNO. Porchiau is the Chief of Staff for Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
Pourchiau says the city wants to use the amendment change to increase affordable housing in the city. He says that in some areas, blighted properties are allowing for fewer housing options for people while other areas have significant private investment which are raising property values and rental rates to create an additional problem.
Pourchiau stresses that the amendment does not create any new tax programs to develop or provide low income housing. Instead, it would only give the city more options on collecting property tax. He adds that any new programs would probably favor freezing the assessment values for properties rather than lower them. That way, the city doesn't reduce any tax revenue that it currently collects. Instead, property owners might be granted a period of time during which their values and tax burdens would not increase on properties that they rehabilitate and offer to low income tenants.
Because Amendment 4 is on every ballot in the state, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has had to do something this election cycle that she did not have to do for herself, campaign statewide.
"She went on an affordable housing tour, talking with mayors in other places, talking with boards of commerce and chambers of commerce," Pourchiau said.
The proposed amendment comes just months after the city increased assessments for many property owners, some of them by several fold. The increases brought lines of people to City Hall to appeal.
For people who fear the amendment could lead to even more property tax increases, the city is pushing one message.
"This does not increase anyone's taxes," Pourchiau said.
Also, any changes would have limits. No properties with more than 15 units and no short term rentals would qualify.
While the amendment would only affect New Orleans, it could set a precedent for other parishes to follow.
Pourchiau says that even if the amendment gives the city more options on property tax collection, it would not change the process for creating new programs. The same legislative and council processes would apply.
As far as selling the rest of the state, Pourchiau says there's one message that all Louisiana voters need to know.
"This is an issue where if New Orleans is healthy, the rest of the state is healthy."