LIVINGSTON — Livingston Parish voters likely will be asked to vote on a tax for the Parish Health Unit in the spring, but it’s not yet been determined what will be included on the proposition.
The Parish Council on Thursday discussed future financing of the Health Unit after voters rejected a 10-year, five-mill tax renewal on Nov. 4.
“I have not made it a secret that the Health Unit has a surplus of $6.6 million and that the great work that they are doing can continue for several years with that surplus,” Council President Ricky Goff said. “But we need to look at the future and what financial support the Health Unit will need in case of some emergencies.”
He suggested a possible May election on a new proposal that would continue to fund the Health Unit, provide for animal control and still save the taxpayers money. Goff suggested a 10-year, three-mill tax with half the revenue going to the Health Unit and half going for animal control.
“This way, we fully support the Health Unit, establish an animal control program, and give the people back two mills that they are now paying,” Goff said.
He added that Livingston Parish “desperately needs a Veterans Affairs Office to help the 7,000 veterans living here” and that such a service could be provided through proceeds from the money going to the Health Unit.
Councilman Marshall Harris told the council that such a proposal would be a brand new tax measure while what the council really wanted to do was to renew the tax now supporting the Health Unit.
“If we change what the people will vote for it’s a new tax. I’m for the Health Unit being supported on a renewal basis. We don’t need to cloud it up with the animal shelter and a veterans’ office,” Marshall said.
Marshall added that if the Health Unit tax brought in more money than needed, then the council could roll back the millage saving the taxpayers money.
Goff encouraged his colleagues to, “Do your homework and study what the needs are. I challenge each of you to come back here with some workable ideas that will benefit all the people.”
The proposition rejected by voters on Nov. 4 erroneously estimated the revenue the Health Unit tax would generate at about $700,000 annually when it actually would have raised more than $2 million annually. Jim Ryan, a financial consultant to the council, said that even had the measure passed, the results would have had to be rejected and the matter put to the voters once again because of the mistake on the ballot.