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Parcel tax math

By Jonathan Morales
Thursday, July 15th, 2010 at 2:47 pm in Lafayette, Roads.

There are always dangers when a liberal arts major starts playing around with numbers, but I decided to do just that today. You’ve been warned.

During the property transfer tax debate, many Lafayette residents, opposed to the idea of a tax passing with just a simple majority, suggested the city should look again at a parcel tax.

Parcel taxes in 2006 and 2007 failed to clear the two-thirds voter majority threshold, but some residents suggested if the city sought a lower parcel tax they may be successful this time around.

Which of course, begs the question, how much could a parcel tax really bring the city of Lafayette? That’s where the math comes in.

I fired up the ol’ Microsoft Excel spreadsheet and recreated the table you can find on page 17 of this city document, which details what the city’s road and drain repair budget looks like projected out to fiscal year 2019-2020 under the current funding mechanism.

Then I added another column that allowed me to enter various levels of parcel tax revenue and see how that affected the overall budget picture.

Some assumptions, first. There are 8,753 taxable parcels in the city of Lafayette, according to the county assessor’s office. So the calculations assume there’s no senior exemption and all of those parcels are subject to the tax. Also, the numbers assume the entire parcel tax would be used for road and drain repairs. Finally, the parcel tax numbers start rolling in during fiscal year 2011-2012 under the assumption that the council can’t go back in time and put a parcel tax measure on the ballot for the current fiscal year.

So how much would you need? If you wanted to eliminate the repair backlog by 2020, you would need to set the parcel tax at $143, just slightly lower than the parcel tax that failed in 2007.

What if, to increase your chances of getting the thing passed, you lowered the tax level? A parcel tax of $100 would bring the backlog down to $3.8 million by 2020, about 25 percent of the current total backlog of $15.3 million

Need to go even lower? A parcel tax of $75 would bring the backlog to $6.1 million, about 40 percent of the current total.

Whether or not the council wants to try this route again after so many failures is up in the air. But if they want to get the roads fixed by something close to the end of this decade, it’s clear they would have to ask for an annual parcel tax well above $100, and probably close to the $150 they asked for unsuccessfully in 2007.

You can take a look at the numbers here: Lafayette road repair parcel tax worksheet

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One Response to “Parcel tax math”

  1. uh oh. Says:

    Nice work! I’m surprised there are no comments so far.
    So, why not do a follow up and bring this text to some of the city officials involved and ask for their comment.

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