BREC says it now wants to increase millage

BREC is seeking to slightly increase its millage rate after giving property owners a break on their tax bills in 2020 due to COVID-19.

The board of commissioners will meet next month to consider “rolling forward” BREC’s millage rate to 14.463 mills, which is the legally allowed maximum that voters previously approved at the polls.

The change, if approved by the board, will generate an additional $3.7 million a year for BREC, which opted in 2020 to “roll back” its millage rate to 13.72 mills.

“This will bring the millage back to the level that voters approved,” says BREC spokesperson Cheryl Michelet. “Last year, we rolled back due to COVID. We knew the economy was difficult for a lot of people so it was a unanimous decision by the commission.”

While it’s true that voters have approved up to 14.463 mills for BREC, 2020 was a reassessment year for properties in the parish and most property values have increased—in some cases, significantly.

That means BREC’s 14.463 mills will effectively represent a tax increase for BREC, though most property owners will hardly notice the difference.

The increase on a home assessed at $300,000 would be less than $10.

Michelet says BREC needs the increase because of several large construction projects under way, namely the Greenwood Park and Baton Rouge Zoo improvements.

“It’s going to take every dollar we have and then some to get some of these projects completed,” she says. “And, because of supply chain disruptions and cost increases, we added $6 million to the zoo project budget so those are some of the things we’re dealing with.”

BREC was able to weather COVID-19 and begin work on those projects by dipping into reserves.

“But we need our reserves for things like hurricanes and COVID, so we cannot keep spending from them,” she says.

BREC is the only city-parish agency that is seeking to roll forward the millage, city parish officials say.

The BREC board will meet July 29 to vote on the measure.