ST. FRANCISVILLE — Voters in West Feliciana Parish will decide the fate of two propositions on the Nov. 16 ballot that renew an existing half-cent sales tax to fund the West Feliciana Hospital and rededicate some of those funds to road and bridge repairs.
Supporters said the propositions are not new taxes, and they will not increase what voters are currently paying in local sales taxes.
The hospital currently collects two half-cent sales taxes, one levied parishwide and the other levied in the unincorporated areas of the parish.
“This is a wise use of existing funds to better meet the needs of our parish,” West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard said.
Former Parish President Kevin Couhig was unsuccessful last year in getting the Parish Council and the hospital board to support diverting some of the hospital funds to road projects, but the hospital board agreed to the 75-25 split not long after Couhig retired and was replaced by Havard.
“The hospital is a good steward of its finances and its expanded services have greatly improved its self-generated revenue over the last few years. That stability is allowing the hospital to offer better care to our people, and to share a portion of its tax-based revenue with parish government to improve our roads and bridges,” Havard said.
The two half-cent sales taxes generate approximately $2.3 million each year. A vote to renew 100 percent of the dedicated funding, with a rededication of 25 percent of the proceeds, means:
- 75% of the approximately $1.7 million each year will continue to fund West Feliciana Hospital’s operations and EMS/Ambulance Services; and
- 25% of the approximately $600,000 each year will go to repairing and rebuilding West Feliciana Parish’s worst roads and bridges.
Both Proposition 1 and 2 must pass to make all the existing monies available for the next 10 years. Proposition 1 asks all voters in West Feliciana Parish to renew a half-cent sales tax funding hospital services and to rededicate 25% to roads and bridges. Proposition 2 asks all voters living outside the municipality of St. Francisville to renew a half-cent sales tax funding hospital services and to rededicate 25% to roads and bridges.
More information about the tax renewal/rededication propositions is available online at www.BetterWestFel.org, or can be obtained through information sites sponsored by West Feliciana Hospital and the West Feliciana Parish President’s Office.
West Feliciana Hospital CEO Lee Chastant said the plan to share revenues manifested out of the hospital’s commitment to caring for the overall well-being of the community.
“We are providing our residents with quality care and we’re expanding our services to meet requests in the community. But if the people who need and want these services can’t get to us in a timely manner because of closed bridges or dangerous roads, then that’s not good,” Chastant said. “We want to be a good neighbor, and we want to give all the people of West Feliciana better access to better health care – in every sense of the way!”
The existing funding from the two half-cent sales taxes makes up nearly 12 percent of the hospital’s annual operating budget and is primarily used to cover the cost of EMS and ambulance services.
Chastant noted that quality care and additional services have allowed the hospital to grow its patient revenues over the past 10 years, greatly improving the hospital’s well being and allowing the hospital to share a portion of its local tax-based revenue with the parish. However, Chastant said the hospital still needs most of the funding gained from local taxes to continue to provide essential services.
Havard said the revenue the parish will receive from the 25% rededication would go to repairing F grade bridges, roads and drainage projects that are not currently being repaired with one-time FEMA or Louisiana DOTD grants.
A comprehensive study of the parish’s bridges showed more than 50% of all the parish’s bridges were graded an F or D. Of the parish’s 46 bridges, 18 are timber bridges – two are currently closed and 12 are under state order to be repaired. The average cost to repair a timber bridge is between $25,000 and $40,000, not including the piling requirements, Havard said.
At the same time, of the 235 miles of parish roads, less than 1% meet the state DOTD standards for width, creating problems for emergency vehicles and school buses, he said. Forty-four percent of all parish roads received an F or D grade, according to the study.
“Better access to safe roads and bridges brings better opportunities to our residents,” Havard said. “Our parish can take a very positive and progressive step forward with the passage of these two propositions. A ‘yes’ vote for both propositions will go a long way to improving our quality of life in West Feliciana Parish.”
The two propositions will be on the Nov. 16 ballot. Early voting will be held Nov. 2-9 at the Governmental Complex at 5932 Commerce Street in St. Francisville.