Covington voters will decide Nov. 21 whether to extend a 1-cent sales tax first adopted in 1982 and to allow greater flexibility in how the revenue can be spent.
The Covington renewal and rededication is one of two sales tax issues on the ballot in St. Tammany Parish. The other is a half-cent sales tax in Folsom that would support the town’s Police Department.
In other parts of the parish, voters will consider fees or property taxes for fire districts, a recreation district, a lighting district and a gravity drainage district.
The only parishwide tax on the Nov. 21 ballot in St. Tammany is a 3-mill, 10-year property tax to help support the Florida Parishes Juvenile Justice District. The district includes St. Tammany, Livingston, St. Helena, Tangipahoa and Washington parishes.
Mayor Mike Cooper said the Covington sales tax rededication would allow the city to use the proceeds for any municipal use. At present, 40 percent of the revenue is dedicated to four purposes: 15 percent for recreation, 5 percent for police, 10 percent for infrastructure and 10 percent for downtown development. The remaining 60 percent is dedicated to capital improvements and projects.
Cooper said the city’s needs have changed since 1982, when the tax was first adopted. While the tax is not set to expire until 2027, extending it would allow Covington to use the money for bonds to pay for long-term projects.
Folsom voters will decide whether to pass a 10-year, half-cent sales tax that would generate $132,000 a year for the town’s Police Department.
Mayor Bettye Boggs said the tax has been in place since 2005, but it expired three months ago, forcing the town to come up with other revenue sources to pay for the small Police Department of a chief and three officers.
Voters in Road Lighting District No. 9, which covers the Military Road area in eastern St. Tammany, will vote on whether to renew a $50 parcel fee that was narrowly defeated in November 2014, leaving the district without revenue from the fee this year.
St. Tammany Parish Councilman Gene Bellisario, who represents the area, said he believes the measure failed because it was the last item on the ballot, and he’s concerned about its placement this time as well.
Before last year’s vote, the district had approval to collect a full $50 annual fee, but it actually assessed only $28. Officials plan on doing the same thing if voters approve renewing the fee this time. They would not be able to start collecting the fee until 2017, which means the district would have to operate another full year on money in its fund balance. If the parcel fee fails this time, the lights will go off in 2017, Bellisario said.
Recreation District No. 7 is also trying to renew a property tax that was previously rejected by voters — a 10-year, 3.98-mill tax that generates $140,000 a year to operate a 70-acre facility north of Pearl River that serves about 1,000 children.
The property tax was originally adopted in 2007, but voters turned down a renewal in May. If they do so again, the tax will lapse. Director Roy Yates said the board is working to get its message out through signs and social media.
Two fire districts also have millages on the ballot.
Fire District 11, which serves Pearl River and the unincorporated areas around it, is seeking the renewal of a 10-year, 10-mill tax.
Fire District 7, which serves Talisheek and Hickory, is seeking a renewal of a 10-year, 5.21-mill tax. The rural district has a total millage of 20.2 mills, which it says on its Facebook page is the second-lowest millage rate of any fire district in St. Tammany. The 5.21-mill tax will bring in about $188,280, according to the fire district.
Gravity Drainage District No. 5, which covers parts of Covington and Lacombe, is seeking the renewal of a 10-year, half-mill property tax.
Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.