Monday, October 8, 2007

The property assessment saga continues, and the TP weighs in with an update that's the work of not one, but two reporters.

"Appeals pay off for many in N.O.," says the headline. Ok, many got a lower assessment. Let's move into to the story.

"The endless hours that thousands of New Orleanians spent standing in line in early August..." (uh, if the hours were endless, then aren't they still there?) "...paid off for at least some of the disgruntled owners." Guess the headline was wrong. We talking about at least some, not many. It looks like the overall property base is now $2.684 billion instead of the $2.602 billion that it was before the initial appeals. Finally, real numbers.

"Some of the reduction resulted from assessors correcting mistakes, or adding homestead exemptions or 'age freezes' for property owners who forgot to file them." Ok, some. But what percentage is some? It's less than many, I'm guessing.

"In other cases, owners apparently persuaded assessors that their property simply was not worth as much as the assessors first decided." Ok, how many cases? Two? Two thousand?

Despite the slightly lower tax base (a roughly 3% decrease in property values after initial appeals, if my numbers are right), we're assured that millage rate will still decrease significantly. How much will taxes decrease?

"Such a decrease would greatly soften the blow of higher assessments for most residents." Most, huh? "Many would actually see a reduction in their tax liability, although many who have received upward reassessments greater than 41 percent would still have to pay more." Many would see a reduction, you say? Is that more or less than the many who will have to pay more?

And while we're asking questions, who provided all this reliable data? We're 7 paragraphs into the story and not a single source has been named.

In general, too many reporters are sloppy about numbers. Sometimes, it doesn't matter that much. This story, though, is all about numbers. If you don't have even vague numbers, then you don't have much information. From my perspective, you either wait until you know more, report only what you know in detail now or admit explicitly in the story that at this point your numbers are vague.

No comments: