As we watch the cost of living in St. Charles parish rise again, it should add to the list of questions we have about how our elected officials (local, state and federal) spend our tax dollars.
The power given to our parish president by the home rule charter to raise the sewerage rates is not in question. The fact that sales taxes are being used from the general fund to pay for sewerage department operations is not in question; however, the rationale for raising sewerage user fees certainly should be questioned.
Comments made by parish administrators that there are no sales taxes being collected to fund the sewerage department are incorrect. St. Charles Parish residents have been paying two separate sales taxes, one for 3/8 cents, and one for 1/2 cent, for thirty years.
These sales taxes were to fund the set-up and operations of a sewerage system in and for St. Charles Parish. The wording on both of these tax issues, when presented to the voters for approval, contained the following, "including but not limited to sewers and sewerage disposal works, dykes and levees."
However, over the years, and again in the 2012 budget message from the finance department, that wording has continuously been omitted. It is my belief that the 3/8 and 1/2 cent sales taxes being collected and deposited in the general fund certainly were, and are, for sewerage operations. It is also my belief that without the original need for the sewer system, these taxes would not exist.
I applaud our parish president for moving the sewerage department in the direction of being self-sufficient. I believe in being self-sufficient which is, if you remember, what I requested from the operators of our Farmers Market; however, to put an added financial burden on the citizens is not correct. I believe St. Charles Parish is one of the top three wealthiest parishes, per capita, in the state, but not all of the residents of St. Charles Parish are wealthy.
With the increase in user fees, the residents of St. Charles Parish will be paying twice for the same service in the form of sales taxes and user fees.
As the user fees increase, the sales taxes should be reduced.
Even the parish presidentís statement that he is attempting to free up funds for the westbank hurricane protection levee sends mixed messages. On the one hand, he and other politicians say we can never afford to build a locally funded levee, but then on the other hand they say we need to find local funds to build a levee.
One thing that is always consistent with government, at all levels, is that they never seem to have enough of our tax dollars. The government never seems to care if you have to do without as long as they do not have to do without. As those who are paying attention already know, the federal government is broke, and the state is getting there rather quickly.
Do we think that we are immune from finding ourselves in the same financial situation as the federal and state government?
Milton J. Allemand, Jr.