Aside from the contentious races for public office coming up on Saturday’s ballot, there are four state constitutional amendments and several local ballot issues also to be decided.
In Iberia Parish, voters will be deciding whether or not to accept the changes to the parish’s home rule charter that the Iberia Parish Council passed this spring to update the language and eliminate portions of the charter that conflicted with state law.
The goal of the update is not to change the way the charter functions. The change is more of a tune-up, getting rid of language that had become either out of date or ambiguous in nature.
In St. Martin Parish, voters will be deciding on a 6.46 mill tax renewal for Sub-Road District No. 1 of Road District No. 1. That renewal is for 10 years.
In St. Mary Parish, voters will decide whether or not to renew the 15-mill tax for the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Sub-District No. 1. That renewal is for a five-year period.
Statewide, there are four amendments up for consideration Saturday. Amendment 1 would prohibit property taxes on raw materials, goods, commodities and articles stored for maintenance if destined for the outer continental shelf. While still part of the United States, the OCS is not subject to the jurisdiction of individual states.
If the amendment does not pass, the tax on materials headed to the shelf would continue to be levied. Lawsuits could follow to determine if the tax passes muster with the U.S. Constitution.
The number of parishes immediately affected by this amendment would be relatively small and mostly confined to areas near the Gulf of Mexico, but would directly affect the Port of Iberia, Port of West St. Mary and the Twin Port facility.
Amendment 2 would add appropriations to one legislatively approved special school, Thrive Academy, and two laboratory schools operated by colleges — the Louisiana State University Laboratory School and the Southern University Laboratory School. Each school would receive $75,000 plus the average per pupil amount the fund pays to other public schools. The Louisiana Educational Television Authority, which is not a school but is a state agency providing statewide educational programming through Louisiana Public Broadcasting, would receive $75,000 annually as part of the proposed changes. The amendment also performs housekeeping by removing an outdated provision of the constitution that is no longer in force.
Amendment 3 would enhance the scope and power of the state’s Board of Tax Appeals and allow the body to rule on whether taxation and fee matters are constitutional under Louisiana or U.S. law. This level of authority is not generally allowed for executive branch agencies. However, the American Bar Association recommended that executive branch tax tribunals should possess at least some limited authority to consider constitutional issues on specific grievances that come before those bodies.
The amendment would let taxpayers have their entire tax dispute heard in one forum to speed up resolution. The board’s decisions could be appealed to state courts. Taxpayers still would have the option to take their case to the courts instead of the board. The legislature would be able to pass laws affecting the board’s jurisdiction and other related matters with a two-thirds vote.
Amendment 4 would grant the City of New Orleans the ability to establish property tax exemptions for residential properties that provide affordable housing. Developments over 15 units and short-term rental properties, such as for Airbnb lodging, would be ineligible. The tax assessments could be fully or partially exempted. Properties could be upgraded without being taxed for the added value.
Depending on how the city structures the program, the target could be owner-occupied homes, with the exemption applying directly to the homeowner, or rental homes or apartments with the tax break going to the landlord or developer in exchange for affordable rents. New Orleans would create the rules and process for the program, which could vary greatly depending on how it is constructed.
The precise definition of “affordable” housing would be left to the city to decide. Companion legislation requires proposed rules to be published 30 days before becoming effective with at least one public hearing during that period. The exemption would apply to all property taxes collected including resources that otherwise would flow to the sheriff, parks, libraries and schools. To take effect, the proposed amendment would have to be approved by a majority of the voters in Orleans Parish as well as statewide.
New Orleans would be required to absorb any decreases in specific ad valorem tax collections as a result of this new authority.
Polls will reopen Saturday morning at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Voters will be asked to identify themselves with either a photo ID or signature on a voter affidavit. Voters can use a driver’s license, a Louisiana special ID, LA Wallet digital driver’s license, or some other generally recognized picture ID that has the voter’s name and signature.