TPCG looks at property sales

With a slow economy demanding a search for revenues and savings, Terrebonne Parish is considering selling off property to attain both.

District 1 Councilman John Navy brought up property sales for discussion during last week’s Terrebonne Parish Council meeting. Navy said he wants Terrebonne officials to focus more on the sales to figure out what can be turned into a revenue stream for the parish.

Terrebonne Parish Purchasing Manager Angela Guidry is in charge of the parish’s property sales. Her department has worked with the parish assessor’s office to compile a list of the different properties the parish owns, such as those handed to the parish when the owner does not pay delinquent taxes on the property, known as adjudicated properties. Other properties include those acquired through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program or Community Development Block Grant Program and those that the parish bought outright. The purchasing department will then

Navy originally brought up the idea two to three years ago as the state considered cutting the redemption period, when owners can pay the back taxes and retain their properties, on adjudicated property in half. When the parish sells off properties, it not only brings in revenue from the sales, but also saves money by not having to maintain the properties anymore. According to Navy, the parish has made more than $500,000 in property sales over the last three years. When considering both the savings and revenues possible with a renewed parish focus, he has even loftier goals going forward.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if over the next three years, we actually save ourselves and actually sold $3-4 million worth of property,” he said.

The parish is currently closing sales on seven or eight properties, according to Guidry and Parish Attorney Julius Hebert. Guidry said Terrebonne currently has 22 CDBG properties and she plans to put up 19 for sale. Any money earned from those sales will go back toward parish CDBG funds, according to Guidry.

District 5 Councilwoman Christa Duplantis-Prather supports a focus on property sales, saying two of those CDBG properties exist in her district, purchased in the Lisa Park area for future recreation projects. However, the parish was never able to acquire money for the projects, so the properties have stayed dormant. Navy said he has seen the parish purchase properties, including in his own district, as part of “feel-good measures” to show the public they are working toward a project. However, he implored parish leaders to not put the cart before the horse in the future.

“I would ask for the council members, and even administration, if you don’t have a project slated, don’t just purchase the property if you don’t have the money to do the project. That’s just crazy, because now we have to maintain that property,” Navy said.

Parish officials are also looking toward technology to streamline the parish’s property costs. Guidry said she is working to have the parish list all adjudicated properties for sale on the parish website, including those that are still eligible for redemption and cannot be sold yet. Duplantis-Prather suggested the parish consolidate its paper files to an electronic format, as the parish currently spends money leasing spaces to store its files.

District 6 Councilman Darrin Guidry also expressed support for the sales, although he is skepticism over using one-time revenues to pay for recurring parish costs. Guidry suggested the parish consider the money it gains from the sales to purchase properties that could be quickly turned into recurring revenue sources.

“We’re using one-time money for one-time purchases to create recurring revenues,” he said.