Assessor announces relief program for storm-damaged homes, businesses

Aaron Looney

Assessor Renee Mire Michel said Thursday that assessors across the state, including Ascension Parish, will be able to offer property tax relief on assessments for buildings with significant structural damage from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

“This program can be a great benefit for people whose homes or businesses were hit hard by the storms,” Michel said.

The program is available to assessors in parishes that Gov. Bobby Jindal has declared to be in state of emergency after the storms, Michel said.

The plan came about in 2005, after a state law allowing for the relief passed through the state Legislature following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Applicants are asked to bring in evidence of any storm-related damage or loss to either location of the assessor’s office - located in the Parish Courthouse on Houmas Street in Donaldsonville or at the Parish Courthouse East on South Irma Boulevard in Gonzales – when they apply.

“It can be insurance claims, photos, contractors’ assessments or other items,” Michel said. “We’ll review the evidence and determine if the applicant qualifies.”

Businesses can also qualify for relief for any assessed equipment that may have been damaged from the storms, Michel said.

“For instance, if you own a restaurant and had damage to your building that allowed rain to come in on your equipment, we can give you relief,” she said.

Michel said that parish officials informed her of approximately 4,000 properties that suffered significant damage from the storms, but that the number included parks and other areas that are not assessed.

“I’ve sent some of my field deputies out to look around the parish to find properties, but people coming in to report damage to us would help us greatly. We’re counting on people to let us know.”

If a house is unlivable or a business is deserted, Michel said, her office can possibly remove it from the tax rolls.

“It’d be hard to collect the taxes if there’s no one there to pay them,” she said.

Michel said that even through the parish’s 2008 assessed property tax rolls are based on figures from Jan. 1, her office can still amend the roll to make necessary changes for the current year only.

“We can always do a change order to the rolls, if needed,” she said.

The grace period for consideration of tax relief will be available through the end of the calendar year, Michel said.

Michel said that Hurricane Gustav’s impact also forced her to push back the opening of 2008 assessment rolls for public viewing.

The public viewing period will take place Oct. 6-20 at the Assessor’s Office locations in Gonzales and Donaldsonville.

After that period, where residents can review and file formal objections to their assessments,

Michel will present her tax rolls to the Ascension Parish Council, which acts as a board of review, for certification.

For more information, contact the assessor’s office in Donaldsonville at 473-9239 or Gonzales at 647-8182.