It’s an election day again, with a number of tax renewals or other propositions on ballots throughout the greater New Orleans region.
Here, we present our recommendations on three significant parishwide proposals before voters in Orleans and St. Bernard parishes. Information on voting on these and other issues can be found at the office of Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, www.sos.la.gov.
Polls are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. We urge voters here and across the state to cast an informed ballot.
Orleans Law Enforcement: YES
A second try by Sheriff Marlin Gusman, this “tax swap” failed at the polls last year. We hope that voters take another look at it, because of the pressing need for support for an expanded jail.
As has been the story in local institutions, a new prison is being built with recovery funding from the U.S. taxpayer. But operations are a continuing expense that must be paid for with local dollars.
This tax will not increase the millage but will extend an expiring tax that is now paying off debt. The 2.8 mills of property tax would continue and fund over 10 years operation of a new Orleans Parish Prison. It’s a vital source of funding for meeting the city’s hefty obligations under a federal court decree. This proposal also earned the support of the Bureau of Governmental Research, which noted, “The money is going to have to come from somewhere.” That’s a statement of the real bottom line.
Orleans Library: YES
Yet another case of post-Katrina construction that requires local operating costs is the New Orleans Public Library. New branches may be built with recovery money, but they must be operated by local librarians, and local taxpayers must pay to keep the lights on.
The library has unfortunately not been a priority in the city. Its branches have operated off dwindling reserve funds since the 2005 hurricanes and floods.
A 2.5-mill property tax would supplement an existing 3.14 mills, bringing in $17.75 million in total for day-to-day operations of the library system.
That’s not a handsome sum compared to neighboring parishes or Baton Rouge, but it will provide a basis for operations going forward.
A library is a critical local source of both pleasure and education. We ought to support our libraries properly.
Lake Borgne Levee District: YES
The massive rebuilding project and improvements to our region’s levee system were largely funded by the U.S. government, correctly so, but the reality is that maintenance and operation of the new facilities is a local responsibility.
Because of the size and scope of the facilities of the Lake Borgne Levee District, the people of St. Bernard Parish are being asked to increase the total property tax millage for operations and maintenance.
The proposed 7.5-mill increase will raise $2.6 million more for the district’s operations and provide a vital insurance policy against the devastation that occurred 10 years ago.