Ascension Parish voters turned out on a dreary day Saturday to adopt a new 1-mill property tax to finance the parish's animal shelter and animal control services and build a new home for both operations, complete but unofficial results show.
The 10-year tax comes after the nonprofit running the animal shelter for parish government argued for more money and more space amid a growing pet population.
Volunteers with Companion Animal Rescue of Ascension, the nonprofit that runs the shelter under a 10-year contract, put together the tax proposal after Parish Council members urged them to seek a dedicated funding source for a shelter that now relies on the general fund.
According to assessor’s data, a 1-mill parishwide property tax generates about $1.32 million annually. Backers have said the new tax's revenues would be split into thirds, with roughly equal shares for shelter operations, animal control operations and construction of a new $2.5 million building.
For a homeowner with a $250,000 house and homestead exemption, the 1-mill tax increase will cost an extra $17.50 annually. The owner of $500,000 commercial building will now pay an extra $75 per year, according to assessor’s figures.
In backing the measure, Ascension voters supported on Saturday a new parish government tax for the first time in years, after previously rejecting new taxes for roads, firefighters and recreation.
While the current nonprofit-run shelter, which is known as CARA's House, houses stray cats and dogs at a parish building near Sorrento, the parish Animal Control Department handles nuisance and dangerous animals from a different building in St. Amant.
Parish officials had said that if the tax passed, they may seek to have CARA take over Animal Control too.
CARA took over the parish shelter in late 2015 under a deal with then-Parish President Tommy Martinez only months after its members had been banned over accusations of improper parish treatment of animals.
Since taking over, CARA has slashed euthanasia rates and boosted live-release rates. It will only euthanize ill or aggressive animals and not to open spots in the shelter, though it has struggled to find room for animals.
Parish officials have said that if voters approve the tax, they would create a public board to oversee the new revenue.