The West Bank’s flood protection authority will have to prioritize which sections of levee to elevate in the current round of levee lifts after West Jefferson voters Saturday rejected a 5.5-mill property tax increase for flood protection.
Executive Director John Monzon said the South Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-West will make decisions based on which levee sections are settling the fastest, which have the smallest footprint and which protect the most homes and businesses.
“We’re going to have to look at where we get the most bang for our buck,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re protecting the most populated areas.”
Still, he said, “the level of flood protection we will be able to provide will decrease.”
Some levee sections may get lifted by only a foot rather than 2 feet during the current elevation process, which the authority is doing in concert with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Corps is armoring the levees to protect them from feral hogs and erosion, but it has been letting the authority do the lifts first before coming in behind with the armoring.
The SLFPA-W proposed the tax hike to help fund maintenance and operation of the system, which recently underwent a $4.1 billion upgrade of its levees, floodwalls, pump stations and flood gates funded by the federal government.
The SLFPA-W was hoping to more than double the number of mills it collects in West Jefferson, from 5.03 mills to 10.53 mills, but voters strongly rejected the 30-year proposal, with 58 percent opposed.
Voter turnout was 30 percent.
The result leaves West Jefferson’s flood protection tax at 5.03 mills, which generates $5.1 million annually.
Monzon said the authority likely will put a millage increase before voters again, though he said it is too early to say whether that might happen as soon as the spring or how the proposal might be changed.
“The need is still there,” he said. “It didn’t go away.”
Despite the rejection by voters, Monzon said the agency feels it did a good job of explaining the need for additional funds, citing the slate of endorsements the tax got from business groups and the Realtors’ and home builders’ associations, among others.
The agency got some last-minute criticism of its budget from state Rep. Pat Connick, R-Marrero, and Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts came out against the tax, but Monzon said a letter sent out days before the election by Jefferson Parish Assessor Tom Capella may have done the most damage to the authority’s cause.
The letter was informational and urged property owners to vote, but Monzon said the fact that it only outlined how much taxes would increase without explaining what people would get in return hurt the millage’s chances. He noted that the millage enjoyed 52 percent support from people who voted early.
Algiers residents voted Saturday to renew a 6.35-mill tax, keeping total flood protection-related taxes there unchanged at 12.53 mills, which generates $2.4 million a year.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.