Mayor-President Kip Holden will ask voters this fall to approve a $748,454,619 capital improvements bond package.
It will mark his third attempt to pass the parishwide taxes.
The details of the bond package were submitted to Metro Council members Thursday evening, giving the council about a month to review it before voting Aug. 10 on whether to place the item on the November ballot.
As promised, Holden presented a proposal similar to his past two attempts in 2008 and 2009 that focused on infrastructure, public safety and economic development.
This proposal lacks the $225 million Alive riverfront development component, a subject of contention for many East Baton Rouge Parish voters in 2009.
The proposal includes $79.5 million for bridge repairs and replacement — a new element of Holden’s tax package.
Holden said Monday the proposal isn’t much different from the past plans presented.
“We’ll be focusing on drainage again, and this time we’ll be focusing on bridges too,” he said. “A collapsed bridge could create major havoc, especially in the northern part of the parish, bringing traffic to a complete standstill.”
To finance the full plan, which is $150 million less than his most recent attempt, Holden is asking for an additional three-fourths of a cent sales tax increase and 3.15-mill property tax increase.
In 2009, voters rejected the $901 million plan which called for a 9.9-mill property tax and a half-cent sales tax. Voters rejected a similar plan in 2008.
An important difference this year is the package will be offered in three parts to voters.
About $350 million of the bond would go to public safety. It calls for a quarter-cent sales tax and 2.15 mill property tax.
This option includes a new $151 million prison complex to replace the existing prison near the Metro Airport.
A $45 million juvenile services facility will consolidate the juvenile courts and probation and detention services, and provide a facility for processing, housing and rehabilitation of juveniles.
A new $102 million public safety building will be built to house a shared headquarters for city police and the Sheriff’s Office along with training facilities for law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services.
About $52 million will be used to retrofit and weatherize the downtown city hall building. Earlier this year the district courthouse vacated the building, leaving empty offices that will be retrofitted to consolidate other city-parish departments now located in other facilities.
A $366 million infrastructure improvement issue calls for a quarter-cent sales tax and 0.75 mill-property tax increase.
The newest component of the bond package is the $79.5 million bridge plan that calls for replacing 75 to 78 bridges that carry about an average daily traffic volume of 250,000 vehicles.
The plan also calls for $54 million to replace and synchronize traffic signals. It would replace 81 outdated signals and upgrade 200 more.
Drainage improvements make up the largest line item — about $195 million for 40 miles of drainage work.
It also budgets $38 million for a downtown parking garage with 1,300 spaces.
The third, and smallest, issue is for $32 million for the phase two expansion of the Baton Rouge River Center. It would include ballroom renovation, creating access to the second floor for disabled people and adding meeting space.
No bonds will be issued for this part, and the taxes — one quarter-cent sales and 0.25 mills — will run five years.
For the public safety and infrastructure pieces, 30-year bonds will be issued that will be paid off within 20 years.
Unless the Metro Council approves the bond, voters will not get the chance to weigh in.
The council is expected to hear on Aug. 3 a presentation at the Finance and Executive Committee before the full committee votes Aug. 10.
Some council members say they need more information before deciding whether to support the far-reaching plan.
Councilman Joel Boé said he was encouraged to see the plan broken into three items.
He also said he is concerned that some of the bridges identified for repair are already in the state’s bridge replacement program.
“They may have thrown it together a little haphazardly,” he said.
Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said she could “see myself possibly voting for this,” but still needed to get some administration input.
“But I do believe that the infrastructure work is much needed, and public safety is certainly an issue,” she said. “And linking the two (law enforcement) departments together in one building will serve the city well.”
Mayor Pro Tem Mike Walker said he will not support putting the bond issue to a public vote.
“I’m still of the opinion that it’s very untimely,” Walker said. “Voters are having a hard time paying for gasoline and food. Citizens in my district are not in favor of this being on the ballot at all.”
Rodney “Smokie” Bourgeois said residents are already over-taxed, noting local taxes passed to pay for road and sewer improvements.
“The economy hasn’t gotten any better,” the councilman said. “How much money can we squeeze out of taxpayers?”
Councilwoman Tara Wicker said she will support the plan and hopes fellow members will base decisions on the merits of the issue, rather than soured emotions from a months-long feud between some members and the Mayor’s Office.
“I know there has been difficulty with communication,” she said. “But I hope that failure to communicate doesn’t cause us to not make good decisions for the community as a whole.”