If numbers tell the story, the next couple of years could pose additional challenges for government agencies that provide services to residents of Livingston Parish.
The post-flood decline in ad valorem revenue, which totaled only 91.7 percent of the assessed value on the tax rolls, will mean tough times ahead for some government agencies.
The Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and Livingston Parish Public School System, the two biggest tax districts on the rolls, will both take a sizable hit.
The benefit for which both can give thanks is the sales tax revenue they receive, which has helped break the fall to some degree.
It’s a different picture for agencies ranging from recreation, drainage, fire protection and the Assessor’s Office. The livelihood of those and other entities relies solely on property tax revenue.
It’s a reversal, of sorts. In most cases, governmental entities safeguard their operations through funding generated fro and ad valorem tax or “property tax,” as it’s more commonly known.
A property tax will generate a constant flow of revenue which rarely changes – and when it does, most times it goes in the upward direction.
Most well-built homes in decent neighborhoods appreciate in value over time. Other catalysts, such as a community’s growth or the presence of a strong school system, can only add to the growth, which explains the steady trend upward in Livingston Parish property tax revenue.
It’s generally more of a gamble with sales tax, which can fluctuate either direction. A recession or spike in oil prices often triggers a decline in sales tax revenue, which puts certain government services in dire straits.
In post-flood Livingston Parish, however, sales tax revenue has emerged as the saving grace for entities, ranging from the City of Denham Springs to agencies such as the Livingston Parish Council, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Livingston Parish Public School System.
It has eliminated a smidgen of stress for those agencies, but others must now find ways to make ends meet.
In the meantime, parish and municipal governments hope at least a portion of the federal relief dollars will trickle to the local level.
It would make sense, particularly because those entities best know where to dedicate the funds.
Parish President Layton Ricks and Denham Springs Mayor Gerard Landry have been particularly vocal about letting the local governments decide where to dedicate the money.
It’s a tough fight, however, because the federal government seems more and more insistent on calling the shots. The state, meanwhile, would also like to divvy up the pieces of the pie – but only based on which entities it considers most deserving.
The local and parish entities which help handle public safety, fire protection and education – just to name a few groups – could sorely use relief funds to help stay afloat.
The only other choice: Wait, weather the storm and hope to catch up along the way.
It’s an option which seems unfair for the parish, particularly when it has been on one of the biggest growth spurts in the Southeast the last several years.
Livingston Parish deserves better.