GONZALES — Ascension Parish voters will be asked on Nov. 19 to renew a longstanding property tax that supports parish health units, animal and mosquito control efforts and a regional cancer detection facility in Sorrento, parish officials said.
Parish government is seeking a 10-year renewal of the 2-mill parish health unit tax that has been on the rolls since the mid-1950s but expires Dec. 31, officials said.
Early voting begins Saturday and ends Nov. 12.
The tax will generate $1.627 million this year, said Kenny Matassa, health unit director. According to ballot information, the tax, if renewed, would average $2 million a year in revenue for the next 10 years.
If renewed, the tax would continue to cost $25 per year for the owner of a house with a $200,000 market value and a $75,000 state homestead exemption, Assessor Renee Mire Michel said.
The renewal comes as parish officials said state funding of health units and other programs has declined and parish resources have had to be tapped more.
The parish has been fully funding the Gonzales health unit at 1024 S. East Ascension Complex Blvd., Gonzales, since state cutbacks in 1999. The cuts led to the closure of 25 health units in Louisiana, including two other units in Ascension, Matassa said.
At the end of last year, the state also reduced funding for the parish health unit in Donaldsonville and the parish has picked up the slack for that facility to keep it operating five days a week, Matassa said.
The units offer a variety of health services to the public from testing for people going to drug rehabilitation and pregnancy tests to food commodity programs in conjunction with the Baton Rouge Food Bank, Matassa said.
In recent years, space in the Gonzales unit also has been used by St. Elizabeth Hospital to provide primary care to the parish’s working poor, who lack private or public health insurance.
Matassa said health unit funds also pay for the parish animal and mosquito control programs.
The mosquito control program is actually housed in a former health unit facility in St. Amant, Matassa said.
He said the animal control program offers spaying and neutering under a contract with LSU.
Another closed health unit in Sorrento was converted in 2000 into the River Region Cancer Screening and Early Detection Center under the LSU School of Medicine, Matassa said.
Former state Sen. Louis Lambert, R-Prairieville, helped found the facility, which is maintained with health unit funds.