Sep 052019
 

Wages for many working-class residents have not risen, hurting their ability to pay higher property taxes. (Danae Columbus)

In an effort to reduce their 2020 property tax bills, thousands of New Orleanian property owners will begin pleading their cases for tax relief to the New Orleans Board of Review on Sept. 17. Homeowners who filed a property tax appeal by Aug. 22 should receive letters next week indicating their appeal date. According to Councilman Jared Brossett, who chairs the council’s review process, the hearings are set for Delgado Community College’s Lac Maurepas Meeting Room in the Student Life Center, 916 Navarre St.

Baring a national disaster, it is fairly common for the value of houses and vacant land to increase every year, certainly every four years. A large number of New Orleanians can ill afford a property tax increase because they have not amassed wealth. Simply put, wages are not rising. Perpetual low-paying jobs or a lack of training that could lead to better opportunities holds our citizens back. Increased costs of everything from milk to diapers make for tighter budgets. In addition, our large community of renters is also impacted whenever landlords raise monthly fees to cover additional taxes.

Since the 2007-09 Great Recession, the country’s overall economic expansion has created great wealth for those who invested wisely in the stock market or real estate. Across the country, that windfall has passed by many Americans — especially the “bottom half” of all U.S. households, according to The Wall Street Journal. Those same “bottom-halfers” have only recently regained the wealth they lost during the recession and still have 32 percent less wealth, adjusted for inflation. On the other end of the spectrum, the wealth of the top 1 percent of households has increased 100 percent during that same period.

In the past decade, wealth inequity has grown faster than income inequality, making the current wealth gap the widest in the postwar period, according to University of Bonn (Germany) economists. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans keep their assets in stocks, bonds or private companies. Real estate, such as the family home, makes up slightly more than half of all assets owned by the bottom 50 percent. Mortgage debt almost doubled between 2003 and 2007, which tended to wipe out any gains made by lower-income families.

Many New Orleans homes that were temporarily devalued after Hurricane Katrina are now back on the rolls at full value. Housing prices started rising when New Orleans became a “hot” place to live. Then short-term rentals drove up property values in many areas, making it harder for many older long-term residents to pay more taxes. Recent flooding or excessive termite damage might provide temporary relief from rising taxes for some homeowners.

Feeling pressure from constituents, the Board of Review could look favorably upon many tax appeal requests. That might stall increases for this year, but not forever. What New Orleans really needs is a more diverse and vibrant economy so the “bottom half” can better afford to pay increased taxes.

The mayor and City Council also must have the courage to prioritize adding more currently exempted properties to the tax rolls. Too many property owners are getting a free ride. In the meantime, I anxiously await my appointment date with the Board of Review.

GENERATIONAL GAP LEADS TO CHANGE IN VALUES AND NEW MESSAGING

Younger generations have a different view as to what values define the national character of America, which will impact the messaging during the 2020 presidential campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/ NBC News poll. Presidential candidates want to develop an over-arching message that unifies voters. Because younger voters are speaking with a different voice, it makes that job much harder.

When questioned 21 years ago, Americans valued the principles of hard work, patriotism, a commitment to religion and a goal of having children. While millennials and members of Generation X and Z still appreciate hard work, they are less focused on kids and church and more concerned about their personal economic future and tolerance of others.

“Generational differences on personal values were most pronounced among Democrats,” reported The Wall Street Journal. “In fact, the views of Democrats over age 50 were more in line with those of younger Republicans than with your members of their own party.” No wonder there is such a divide about what Democratic presidential candidates are presenting to attract voters.

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Councilman Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, former Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former City Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.