OUR OPINION: Assessor relief program offers needed aid

Staff Writer
Gonzales Weekly Citizen

Earlier this month, Hurricane Gustav and, to a lesser extent, Hurricane Ike had damaging effects on Ascension Parish, leaving many to pick up the pieces and repair damage to home and property.

For those who suffered extensive damage to their homes or businesses, the Ascension Parish Assessor’s Office may be able to give you relief on your property taxes in this troubling time.

Assessor Renee Mire Michel said Thursday that through a law passed by state government after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, assessors in parishes under a governor-ordered state of emergency can discount property tax assessments for parcels where heavy structural damage occurred.

To apply, you can visit either of Mire’s two offices - in the Parish Courthouse on Houmas Street in Donaldsonville or at the Parish Courthouse East on South Irma Boulevard in Gonzales. You will be asked to present evidence of any storm-related damages or loss to either location of the assessor’s office. This can include photos of damage, insurance claim forms or contractor documentation assessing the damage. Members of Mire’s staff will consult with you on the damage and see if you qualify for assistance.

Businesses can also qualify for relief for any assessed equipment that may have been damaged from the storms, Michel said. This can be vital to a business who may have had important equipment affected by rainwater or from structural damage, such as trees falling through a building.

While Mire and her deputies have surveyed the parish to find areas that may fall into the category of needing assistance, bringing your claim to her offices would ensure that you are not accidentally overlooked and that you get the help you need.

For those who may not be able to get to the assessor’s office right away, the grace period for consideration of tax relief will be available through the end of the calendar year. Michel said that she is able to amend the tax rolls if necessary, giving landowners more time to prepare for the consultation.

We feel this program is a benefit for those landowners looking for good news after such a horrible tragedy. When the law was drawn up three years ago, the catastrophic damage from Hurricane Katrina showed that such assistance can benefit many.

We urge anyone who thinks they may qualify for the program to contact the assessor’s offices in Donaldsonville at 473-9239 or Gonzales at 647-8182.