Nonprofit Sues Tax Assessors in New Orleans

December 14, 2010; Source: NOLA.com | The nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research has sued New Orleans’ assessors, saying the group has refused to turn over the city’s 2010 tax roll “at a reasonable price.”

It is not uncommon for government agencies to charge high fees to dissuade public information requests like the one the watchdog group initiated.

BGR, which has long championed more uniform tax assessments, has been seeking the information from the Orleans Parish Board of Assessors since March. Initially, the assessors wanted $13,000 for the tax roll, and then the price was later reduced to $4,525. BGR says that amount “bears no relationship to the actual cost incurred to create the copy,” which is the standard set out in state law for public records.

The group says they’ve tried every effort to work out a deal with the assessors but has no recourse now but to file the suit.

BGR is seeking the information because studies have shown huge disparities in assessments across the city. The city’s seven assessors were directed to reassess all residential property in the city after the Times-Picayune published one such study in 2004. And recently, Mayor Mitch Landrieu appointed a Tax Fairness Commission, which is tasked with recommending ways to ensure the city’s tax burden is shared as fairly as possible.—Aaron Lester