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Legislative audit: Panel isn't verifying property tax bills - KTBS.com - Shreveport, LA News, Weather and Sports

Legislative audit: Panel isn't verifying property tax bills

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BATON ROUGE, La. -

A report released on July 10th by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor's office is raising questions about whether the state Tax Commission is properly performing its oversight role.

"We looked at the ratio study to see if it's really accomplishing what they were expecting to accomplish and we basically found that no, it's not," says State Legislative Auditor, Daryl Purpera.

The ratio study in question is a tool used by tax assessors to ensure that properties are uniformly assessed based on market value, which is obtained from real estate transactions.

Purpera says the problem is that the audit revealed that nearly nearly 40% of the 6,500 assessments sampled fell outside the acceptable fair market value range of 9% - 11%.

"Most of those were on the low side so the assessments were lower than what they should be."

But Louisiana Tax Commission Administrator, Charles Abels, says the same type of ratio studies have never been flagged in any past audits.

"Oversight is done through ratio studies. What they're asking us to do is unheard of in North America."

Also in question - the accuracy of reguarly approved changes to homeowner's tax bills.

But Abels says most of the changes were delayed homestead or other exemptions, and that a requirment to review 60,000 change orders a year is an impossible task.

"I would have to have another 40 appraisers, maybe even more than that, to get that done."

The audit says the Tax Commission approved more than $188 million in reductions to tax assessments and $10 million in increases for properties from 2010 to 2012, without making sure the new assessments were accurate.

"It's the right thing to do for the taxpayer to make sure that the assessments are proper, they're accurate and they're fair," says Purpera.

KTBS 3 News also reached out to the Bossier Parish Tax Assessor, Bobby Edmiston, for his reaction.

Edmiston says, in his experience, the oversight provided by the Tax Commission is within the guidelines of the state consitution.

He also says his office works to make sure residents don't have duplicate homestead exemptions that would essentially allow for a double tax break, adding to that revenue gap.

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