Livingston Parish’s largest fire protection district is asking voters to renew the annual service charge the chief says is essential to keep pace with a growing population.
District 4 operates 10 fire stations and covers territory from Port Vincent and the Ascension Parish line in the south up through Walker and into Watson, ending at the St. Helena Parish line.
On the Nov. 21 ballot, residents will be asked if the firefighters can continue to collect a $32 charge for each structure in the district. They expect to collect about $714,000 annually from the charge, roughly 30 percent of the district’s budget. A 10-mill property tax, which is not on the ballot, provides most of their other income.
The service charge was first collected in 1997, and if it isn’t renewed, the district will not be able to keep up with development, especially around Walker and Watson, said Chief James Wascom.
But Livingston voters have been resistant to taxes in the past year. Elsewhere in the parish, voters defunded the Holden-area fire department, though that millage renewal passed on a subsequent ballot after the fire chief warned residents that all their home insurance premiums would skyrocket.
“Most people are tired of paying anything related to taxes,” Wascom said.
He said he’s confident District 4’s renewal will pass, adding that if it fails, the firefighters would have to cut services, though he wasn’t sure where.
And his district differs from Holden’s in a key way: Wascom has paid firefighters. There are six full-time and 49 part-time employees, as well as 85 volunteers, he said. The service fee helps pay their salaries.
“This is a definite need,” the chief said.
Follow Steve Hardy on Twitter, @SteveRHardy.