By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
This news report left me shaking my head. Here’s a state senator that apparently doesn’t understand that a special tax district is a public entity, not a private entity such as a homeowners’ association.
Senator Dan Claitor accuses Cypress Point HOA President, Grant Herrin, of trying to use taxpayer dollars to pay to fix the HOA’s private roads.
Herrin is proposing, on behalf of this HOA, that each parcel in the subdivision will pay $300 in taxes per year, for 20-30 years, to pay for work to repair their crumbling roads. That’s certainly not a “free ride” for owners of property in Cypress Point. Essentially, a road improvement district would serve as a way for homeowners in Cypress Point to tax themselves, spreading out the cost over time.
In order to create a road improvement district, however, the HOA needs the cooperation of the state Legislature.
There’s no question that the establishment of a road improvement district for homeowners in Cypress Point would add yet another layer of local government. It’s not an ideal solution.
But, under the circumstances, because the HOA lacks the funds to repair its so-called private roads, and homeowners can’t come up with all of the money up front, what other options are available?
It’s quite clear that Cypress Point HOA’s local Parish (county) government is unwilling to take over maintenance of HOA roads, and now their own state senator is refusing to help.
And, by the way, property owners and residents of Cypress Point and other association-governed communities in Louisiana do pay property, local, and state taxes, in addition to HOA assessments and fees.
Shouldn’t they be entitled to a roughly equivalent level of public benefits and services as owners of non-HOA property?
Residents, state senator butting heads over neighborhood improvements
May 14, 2018 7:56 PM
Earl Phelps, WBRZ
BATON ROUGE – Some residents claim a state senator is blocking improvements to their neighborhood for personal reasons. But he says the residents want to use tax dollars to fix privately owned streets.
Just east of the Baton Rouge city limits, Cypress Point is a quiet, well kept neighborhood of about 120 homes. But its streets are crumbling apart.
HOA board member Grant Herrin says the streets haven’t been repaired since the neighborhood was built.
“There’s a lot of areas where the streets are sinking in, and that’s because the water is running in and washing out the dirt underneath, so the streets are actually collapsing down,” Herrin told WBRZ.
For the last three years, the homeowners association has asked state lawmakers to create an improvement district to collect taxes and fix the roads. The proposal would cost each homeowner about $300 a year.
“We would like to have this parcel fee, spread that out over twenty to thirty years, and have a loan taken against that fee so homeowners won’t have such a high burden,” Herrin said.
Every time the improvement district takes it to the senate committee that oversees local municipalities, it’s rejected. The residents say that’s because of State Senator Dan Claitor.
The association claims Sen. Claitor has a legislative aide who lives in Cypress Point who doesn’t want the tax, but the senator tells WBRZ that’s not why he is against the taxing district.
“You can’t use those tax dollars to pay to work on private property. It doesn’t work like that,” Sen. Claitor said.
The senator added that if the homeowners want to fix the private streets, they should just raise their association fee.
Homeowners in Cypress Point want to have the improvement district reintroduced before the legislature adjourned this session, but it doesn’t appear that will happen.
So, what’s behind State Senator Dan Claitor’s misleading and very vocal objection to establishing a road improvement district for Cypress Point? As an attorney and small business owner, it’s difficult to understand why Claitor would characterize an improvement district as an unathorized use of tax dollars.
So perhaps there’s another explanation for blocking an improvement district.
Notice that, according to HOA board member Grant Herrin, fellow Cypress Point HOA board member Sharon Hattier doesn’t like the idea of an improvement district at all. Hattier serves as Claitor’s Legislative Aide.
A bit of history: Cypress Point has been trying to figure out what to do about the poor condition of their roads and drainage system — not to mention a problem with vandalism — since at least 2015.
A 2014 engineering study by Southeast Engineers estimated the total cost to repair roads and drainage in the subdivision would approach almost a half million dollars. It would require the HOA to issue a special assessment of $4,500 to each of the community’s 119 units.
Herrin argues that it would be nearly impossible to collect that much money up front, all at once, from homeowners. Spreading the cost out with a tax over 20 or 30 years would result in a reasonable annual property tax increase of $300, or roughly $25 per month.
An example of an improvement district established for an HOA:
2014 Louisiana Laws
TITLE 33 – Municipalities and Parishes
RS 33:9079 – The Kingswood Subdivision Improvement District; creation, composition, powers; levy of parcel fee