Parish wants new property tax to fund levee construction

Rather than rely on “hopes and prayers” to find funding for the West Bank hurricane protection levee, the St. Charles Parish administration is proposing a 4-mill property tax that would allow residents to pay for the project.

Chief Administrative Officer Buddy Boe, who presented the measure at a council legislative committee meeting Thursday, Feb. 26, said the proposed property tax would generate $4.8 million a year for 30 years from 2015 to 2044.

The proposal calls for 3.6 mills in new millage with the difference from a .4-mill reduction in a road lighting millage, he said. The new millage alone would add $36 a year to a homeowner’s property taxes, which he compared to less than the cost of a tank of gas for a levee system. By issuing bonds, Boe said he anticipated they could leverage the new tax revenue into an estimated $157 million for levee construction.

“We don’t build a system, we flood,” Boe said. “We need to act rather than wait on hopes and prayers.”

If the tax gets council approval, he said they plan to initiate a campaign that includes holding town hall meetings to educate the public on the need.

To deal with a growing deficit since 2008, Boe also presented a proposal for a 2.2-mill tax renewal for wastewater facilities and systems, which would also be levied for 30 years from 2015 to 2044. The tax would also help stem dipping into the general fund, which he said has been needed to “keep the lights on.”

Boe said the funding problems are partially based on the current millage being less than what was received in 1999, when the tax was 6.92 mills.

“We currently have no money for capital expenses,” he said.

If voters approve carrying over the tax, which is scheduled to end in 2015, it would generate $2.6 million a year, also for 30 years. The current tax is being used to pay for wastewater bonds. The average homeowner uses 4,700 gallons is paying $6.78 per 1,000 gallons of in sewer fees.

Saying “closing the doors is possible,” the Arc of St. Charles also outlined to council committee members how it also will seek council approval for a .7-mill tax to deal with what Executive Director Victoria Bryant called, “a dire situation.” If voters approve, the 10-year tax would provide $843,000 a year beginning in 2015 through 2024.

With council approval, the three tax referendums would come before voters in a May 2 special election.

The Council meeting will be held 6 p.m. March 2 at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in Hahnville.

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