Harahan voters on Saturday approved a new 3-mill property tax to fund maintenance and repairs of the city’s aging sewerage system.
Voters approved the tax 58 percent to 42 percent, or 723 votes to 523 votes.
Mayor Tina Miceli had proposed a fee increase last year after being notified by the state Department of Environmental Quality that the city did not have enough dedicated sewer revenue to access a $4 million line of credit the city had been using for repairs to the overburdened system.
Some council members said they thought a millage would be a better way to raise the money because it would put the decision on how to proceed in voters' hands and because a millage could be deducted from residents' federal income taxes.
The council reduced the fee increase and put the millage on the ballot, though its passage may not be enough to satisfy the terms of the loan. Council members dispute the numbers put forth by the administration and the sewer contractor.
The millage, which will go into effect next year, will generate about $256,000 per year for 10 years.
Miceli has said she does not object to a millage as a revenue source as long as the city’s sewer needs are adequately funded. She said she is concerned the reduced fees and the millage might still not be sufficient to cover the requirements of the $4 million loan program.
The city has used $1.2 million of that loan, but without a plan to plug the financial hole, the rest of the money is off-limits to it.
The 3 mills will cost a property owner $30 a year for each $100,000 of the value of a home or business. As a local tax, the homestead exemption does not apply to the calculation.
Harahan’s sewer woes were exacerbated by the fact the city let a 1.77-mill sewer construction millage lapse in 2012 because it missed the deadline to advertise the renewal.
The porous pipes in Harahan’s antiquated sewer system cause back-ups and overflows when the system is flooded by rainwater during storms. Residents have told the council horror stories of sewage backing up into streets and homes and say the situation is dire in some neighborhoods.