The Louisiana Tax Commission has completed a review of the tax assessments of more than a dozen commercial properties in East Baton Rouge Parish and concluded that several of the assessments appear low, based on an independent appraiser’s valuation of the properties.
The Tax Commission undertook the review in August—following a Business Report cover story in June about how some of the most expensive commercial properties in the parish are assessed significantly below their most recently recorded sale price, resulting in a potential loss of millions of dollars to the cash-strapped parish government.
Louisiana Tax Commission Chairman Lawrence E. Chehardy says the review did not find a pattern of underassessment by East Baton Rouge Parish Tax Assessor Brian Wilson’s office. However, he says the commission’s analysis valued the properties higher on the whole than the assessor did and that the commission has referred its findings back to Wilson for further review and possible action.
“The values we came up with would warrant the assessor taking a second look at how he valued the properties in order to determine the accuracy of the assessments,” he says.
Chehardy say the commission is not accusing the assessor of wrongdoing and cannot legally compel him to reassess the properties.
“We do not have the authority to force anything,” he says. “It’s up to the assessor to decide if he wants to look at it again. But if it were me, and I was assessor, I’d take a second look at it.”
Wilson did not return a call seeking comment before this afternoon’s deadline. He has previously defended the way his office values—and consequently—assesses property, and has said some recent sale prices are so atypical for this market they cannot be used as a basis for assessments.
In its June cover story, Business Report analyzed the assessments of more than a dozen of the largest commercial transactions in the parish between 2014 and 2016—deals that occurred several years ago and should have been updated by now on the tax rolls. On average, the analysis found, the properties are assessed at just 55%—slightly more than half—of their sale price, resulting in a potential loss to the parish of more than $2.3 million in just a single year.
More recently, the community group Together Baton Rouge and BREC have accused Wilson’s office of underassessing four ExxonMobil properties by some $338 million, resulting in a potential loss of millions of dollars in tax money to the parish. BREC has since dropped its challenge to the assessment after the Metro Council denied it.