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In the News

Third floor office lease discussed

By Cyndi Sellers

The Cameron Parish School Board may have to pay property taxes if it leases out the third floor of the Central Office to a private company as was discussed in a special meeting last month. Assessor Orson Billings presented this possibility to the board at their regular meeting on Monday, suggesting that a clause be added to any future lease agreement requiring the lessee to pay the taxes.

Billings said that even though public lands and other public property used for public purposes are exempt from taxation according to the state constitution, a 1996 Attorney General opinion (96-320) affirmed that “public property (not lands) would be subject to ad valorem taxes if said property was not used for a public purpose.” This was in answer to the question of whether structures owned by the Port of New Orleans, leased to a third party, would be subject to property taxes.

Billings said the best method for setting the tax assessment would be based on the lease amount, rather than the square footage, but several methods, set forth by the Tax Commission, are available to him.

The School Board's special counsel for tax matters, J. Delafield, said the Central Office was not designed for any other purpose than educational support, but the third floor has been designated “surplus space.” He said school boards typically don’t participate in economic development the way a Police Jury might, for example by building a structure specifically for economic development, which would be a public purpose.

Instead of seeking a new AG opinion, Delafield suggested waiting until the assessment is made, then protesting the assessment and taking the question to the State Tax Commission for a decision.

To read the rest of this story, please see page two of the print edition of The Cameron Parish Pilot.

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