As citizens and taxpayers we have the right and even the responsibility to voice our position on matters concerning our future. Unfortunately, too few of us vote, much less voice a position on questions of the day. While I have opinions regarding taxation at all levels, I will address only two issues — BREC and the East Baton Rouge Parish Library System.
The BREC millage is the highest of all at 14.4 percent. While walking and bicycle paths, equestrian facilities and water parks are all laudable in concept, they should not be a priority in a community that screams with other needs.
The EBRP Library System is one in which we can all be proud (I am an acknowledged book and library junkie). Few things surpass the visual of a parent with children in tow checking out an armload of books. Yet, again, I question our priorities in renewing this millage at its current 10.8 percent. This higher millage was originally to broadly expand our library system. This we have done with abounding success. My question is again: How can we possibly justify this continued high-level millage to upgrade existing facilities when our community has so many other pressing/critical needs? Also, I won’t be the first to question the $30 million-plus we are spending on the (highly questionable) new downtown library.
The two aforementioned taxes represent slightly more than 50 percent of our total millage assessment.
If I were the ruling monarch of EBRP, I would reduce both of those millages by 35 percent and apply those same funds to meaningful treatment of our mentally ill. Throughout our country, one mental hospital after another has fallen victim to the budget scalpel while we warehouse our mentally ill in jails and prison(s). Somewhere north of 30 percent of our country’s inmates need not be there if proper treatment is provided (read “Crazy” by Peter Earley). I am not referring to the criminally insane. I am referring to those with very treatable mental illness that commit usually stupid crimes. Not only is it more economical to treat rather than incarcerate, it’s simply the right thing to do. Fortunately, I am not the ruling monarch of EBRP and these decisions typically move at glacier speed. But that need not be the case. We need to do this.
George H. Heard
retired petrochemical supervisor