Two millage renewals — one for fire protection in the northeastern part of St. Tammany Parish and another for a Lacombe recreation district — will go before voters in those areas on May 4.

St. Tammany Fire Protection District No. 7 is seeking a renewal of a 5-mill tax, and Recreation District No. 4 is looking to renew a 10-mill tax, each for a period of 10 years.

Early voting is underway through April 27.

Parishwide, voters will be deciding on a $175 million bond issue for St. Tammany schools and a 2-mill tax for school security.

The ballot also includes a runoff for the Covington District E City Council seat between Meghan Garcia and Mark Verret.

Fire Chief Gary Whitehead said District 7 is the largest fire district geographically in St. Tammany. It extends north from just outside Pearl River to Bush and to the edge of Abita Springs on the west, covering about 176 square miles, or 21 percent of the parish, Whitehead said.

The district includes the Money Hill subdivision but generally is sparsely populated and has not seen the rampant growth that some parts of St. Tammany have experienced.

But while the district is large in terms of geography, it is second from the bottom among St. Tammany fire districts when it comes to revenue, taking in about $800,000 a year through three millages: a 10-mill tax and two 5-mill taxes.

The 5-mill tax up for renewal thus accounts for a quarter of the fire district's budget. It is dedicated to acquiring, improving or maintaining facilities and equipment, including the cost of water for fire protection.

"We get about $7 per acre," Whitehead said. "Some parts of the parish get $270 per acre."

The district has five stations, but only three of them are staffed. It has 20 to 25 employees, full-time and part-time.

"We're just trying to maintain exactly what we have, equipment- and buildings-wise," Whitehead said.

Voters in Lacombe, meanwhile, will decide whether to approve the early renewal of a 10-mill tax for constructing, improving, maintaining and operating recreational facilities and programs for Recreation District No 4.

The renewal would begin in 2022 and run through 2031, bringing in $425,000 annually.

The millage is the main revenue stream for the recreation district, said Jacki Schneider, chairwoman of the board of commissioners. "Without it, the Lacombe recreation district would no longer exist for our community," she said.

Recreation District No. 4 operates John Davis Park, the John Davis Gym & Community Center, Keller Field and the Main Street Boat Launch.

Schneider called the district the gathering place for the community. "It serves more than just recreation," she said. "It provides party and wedding venues, meeting spaces and a park for family celebrations and concerts."

Lacombe-area recreation district resolves issues raised by legislative auditor

In the past, the district has been criticized by the state Legislative Auditor's Office for its travel spending, credit card use and other financial matters. But in August, the auditor released a report saying the district had resolved problems in seven areas that had been identified previously.

Schneider said the board decided it was a good time to seek the renewal because of the progress made in the past few years.

On March 30, voters in other parts of St. Tammany — Fire Protection Districts No. 3 and No. 9 and Recreation District No. 2 — rejected parcel fees or a millage to pay for their operations by large margins, with from 55% to 75% of voters saying no. 


Follow Sara Pagones on Twitter, @spagonesadvocat.