1,100 Protest CATS Taxes; $650,000 Held Back in Escrow

BATON ROUGE — The Capital Area Transit Authority has been taking blows this week.  On Tuesday, a consultant hired by the CATS governing board recommended that top management at CATS be removed and that administration of CATS be privatized.

Now there’s more bad news for CATS.  It won’t be receiving all of the 10.3-mill property tax that voters narrowly approved last May.

Just before Christmas, local businessman Milton Graugnard asked property owners in the City of Baton Rouge to pay the new 10.3-mill CATS property tax “under protest.”

Now Graugnard reports that more than 1,100 property owners did just that.

Graugnard, who has filed suit challenging the constitutionality of the $16 million-a-year tax, said the Sheriff’s office is now holding in escrow more than $650,000 that those taxpayers paid under protest.  These funds could be refunded more expeditiously if Graugnard’s suit is successful.

All along, Graugnard has said it will be difficult for taxpayers to get a refund even if he wins his suit.

The reason is that CATS is an entity created by the legislature that no other state or local entity has responsibility for.

In other words, if Graugnard wins his suit, neither the Metro Council nor the Louisiana Legislature would have any legal obligation to refund the taxes collected illegally.

Graugnard hopes that taxpayers who did file a protest will get a refund from the funds being held by the Sheriff in escrow.

Last year, the CATS board hired the New Orleans firm of TMG Consulting to study and make recommendations on the structure of CATS and help CATS fulfill the obligations it made during the campaign to pass the new tax last spring.

The board was shocked at the consultant’s report, which urged the CATS board to replace its top management with private consultants who are qualified for the task.

CATS will be under pressure to make fundamental changes, especially since the Metro Council named newly-elected Councilman Ryan Heck as its representative on the CATS board.

Heck was an opponent of the CATS tax and is a strong proponent of privatization.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook Email

No comments yet... Be the first to leave a reply!