St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran says while a potential tax increase will be considered by the Parish Council to address a projected $550,000 budget shortfall next year, the hope is it would be temporary. The council will discuss the option to increase property taxes to maintain last year’s level of funding, which will be discussed at the Aug. 15 council meeting at 6 p.m. at the Parish Courthouse in Hahnville.
Parish officials say the downturn of oil prices is cutting into a major source of funding called the inventory tax, which is assessed based on the value of goods stored in the parish. A major part of this inventory is oil.
Cochran said not addressing the shortfall could require numerous parish services to make budget cuts.
“You’d have to cut back on those departments and you’d have less services,” Cochran said. “It would impact each department. Look at 911, for example. You don’t want 911 or fire protection to suffer. If the fire department is down, say, $34,000, that’s a lot of money to that fire chief. For 911, that’s $22,000. That’s a lot of money. This is just so we can continue to provide the same essential services on the same playing field (as before).”
He said the parish has extra financial strain upon it with the ongoing construction on its west bank hurricane protection levee.
“What other parish is building a levee with their own money? None in the state,” Cochran noted. “It’s costing us a lot of money to do that.”
Cochran said the shortfall could also negatively impact the levee project if not addressed. He added the parish has taken a number of ongoing measures already and he has been asking department directors to “do more with less.”
If and when the inventory tax revenue returns to what it was before, he said, the council would readjust the tax rate.
“We don’t think the adjustment is too much,” Cochran said. “We’re trying to be fair to the people and when the assessed values return to where they need to be, we’ll be fair to the people again and adjust it back,” Cochran said.
If millages are adjusted, a taxpayer with a home valued at $150,000 would pay an additional $3.60; an additional $8.40 for a home valued at $250,000; or an additional $108 for a home valued $1.5 million.
St. Charles Chief Financial Officer Grant Dussom said last week a resolution to increase the rate to 30.16 mills to cover the shortfall is on the meeting agenda. The current rate is 29.68 mills.
These millages generate revenue for the general fund, levees, road lighting, libraries, road maintenance, recreation, mosquito control, the Council on Aging, fire protection, E-911 Emergency System, Health Unit, Arc of St. Charles, wastewater facilities and sewer bonds.