Sometimes it’s helpful to know a little background about an elected office it’s helpful to know a little background about an elected office before looking at the candidates for that office. When it comes to the Bossier Parish Assessor’s office, it also helps to know that the assessment of property for ad valorem taxes is based in state law.
A couple of important points in that law: the assessment is to based on “fair market value,” and the assessment is to be within 10 percent of that fair market value. The Louisiana Tax Commission annually audits Assessors’ offices, and can compel a reassessment of property if the Assessor’s assessments deviate from that 10 percent.
The Assessor values the property – but has nothing to do with setting the property tax. For more information about how those taxes are derived, readers are encouraged to visit the Bossier Parish Assessor’s and the Louisiana Tax Commission’s websites.
Finally, Louisiana is noted for some of the lowest property taxes in the nation.
Bobby Edmiston has served as Bossier Parish Assessor for the past 17 years, and he likes doing the job – and hopes voters will allow him to keep doing it. Next week, a look at his challenger in the Assessor’s race, Patsy Maggio.
“I like dealing with the numbers and the complicated situations that we have come up,” Edmiston said. Most of all, I like dealing with people; I like seeing people. Probably my biggest job personally is fixing a problem or trying to get somebody a solution for a problem that they have … I deal with that a lot.”
Edmiston’s administration has seen in significant technology improvements and a development of a state-of-the-art Geographical Information System (GIS) in the Assessor’s office.
“Everything that we have now is digitized so you don’t have to go out there and look in a book to find (what you’re looking for). You can go and find plat maps and ownership records and all that straight on the computer. And that saves a lot of time, a lot of effort,” Edmiston said.
This service allows subscribers to the website service (attorneys, real estate agents, oil and gas folks, etc.) to access information from their work sites, precluding the need to drive to Benton. And folks who are just looking for basic information on a property can also access the site.
Edmiston explained that the creation of a GIS it is not a static deal. “It’s always on-going because there’s a 40-acre tract of property out there that all of the sudden it’s platted into 40 lots of a subdivision. You’ve got to draw those 40 lots, you’ve got to put in the road, you’ve got to put in the addresses. As they’re selling, the names are changing – as homes are being built, you get upgraded aerial photographs. Now you see the homes – so it’s always and ongoing process.”
And he noted that there are circumstances that allow for greater use of GIS, such as the big Red Chute flood that occurred before this year’s flooding. Edmiston said equipment was used to “… shoot the points of high water elevations so we could integrate that so if Red Chute gets to that stage again, and you know where the water’s going to get to, you know who you’ve got to evacuate – who you’ve got to get out of there.”
Although Edmiston created the GIS for his office, it evolved to be a partnership between many government entities.
Edmiston said one of the best things he did for the folks he serves is creating a sub-office in Bossier City Hall. He noted that being 12 miles from the parish’s biggest city often created problems for folks who wanted to come to his office in Benton.
“They can sign up for their homestead exemption, they can research properties if they want to, they can do anything there that they can do here – the senior freeze if they’re over 65 years old … they can do it there. It saves them a drive … We also have a kiosk that’s inside the Sheriff’s substation on Arthur Ray Teague. It’s just a computer stand alone, but people that don’t have computers or don’t subscribe to our deal and want to look at other properties – they can drop in there, get on the computer and they can look, again, at anything we’ve got from that location,” he said.
Describing efforts to keep his office adequately staffed, Edmiston said he runs the office “ … as much like a business as I can.” He noted that when he was first elected, there were about 30 employees in the office; currently he has about 20 staff members.”
“So these are some of the best accomplishments that we have. In the future, I’m hoping to refine those, make them better,” Edmiston said.
Although he’s been approached to run for other offices, Edmiston said his interest is in the Assessor’s office. “I have the desire to be the Assessor. That’s what I want to be. I’m not going to say that after I retire, I may not look a one of those. But I want to be Assessor … I think I’ve done an excellent job.”
“During a lot of times, probably most prevalent in my mind was during the boom of the Haynesville Shale, obviously we had a lot of abstractors and land men, not just from northwest Louisiana, but from all over the US, here using our office. And we got the comments consistently: ‘this is the best Assessor’s office I’ve ever been in … the information easy to get …” Edmiston said. “We’ve moved forward. We’re going to continue to move forward.”
Marty Carlson is a columnist for the BPT. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org