When local officials in Livingston Parish bungled the presentation of a tax proposal for the health unit, they were punished at the polls last year by rejection of that proposal.

The lesson to parish government: Get it right the first time.

On the May 2 ballot, the parish again asks voters to support public health with a 2.5-mill property tax, essentially a 10-year renewal of a long-standing tax, though at a lower millage, thus providing some tax relief. Two smaller tax renewals, for recreation in Watson and fire protection in Holden, also are up for a re-do.

The parish grossly misstated the amount of money the original 5-mill health unit tax would collect. When the error was exposed in The Advocate, officials rightly said that even if the tax passed, they would invalidate the result.

Parish voters rejected it anyway. Difficult to blame them, given the poor level of planning for it.

The new tax plan is halved, so it is technically a new tax and not a renewal. Nevertheless, it deserves to pass.

The parish health unit is a vital service, and the reserves it maintains for emergencies make it something of a political target. With the lower millage, the health unit will still show a small surplus in its current budget.

A local service like the health unit allows the parish to tap federal and state sources of money for its activities. Nevertheless, the ultimate burden for local health units’ day-to-day operations lies with local taxpayers. We urge voters to approve the health unit millage.