Following a vote by the St. Charles Parish Council in favor of renewing property taxes that in large part funds the parish’s Department of Parks and Recreation and Council on Aging, St. Charles Parish residents will decide whether to make that a reality on the Dec. 10 ballot.
One item on the ballot calls for a 3.02-mill property tax renewal to fund the Department of Parks and Recreation for the parish. According to St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran, the measure represents no new taxes for parish residents because it is a renewal of an existing 10-year millage.
The 3.02 millage rate is an adjustment from the current rate of 2.97 mills, necessitated by a projected 2 percent decline in a major source of parish funding called the inventory tax. The inventory tax represents 23 percent of this year’s tax revenue for the parish, but plummeting oil prices has made this major component of inventory generate less tax revenue.
Therefore, the move to a 3.02 millage rate would be necessary to collect the same amount of money that the 2.97 mill rate did last year.
Cochran said over the summer that the council will seek to readjust the rates when the inventory tax revenue returns to what it was.
Cochran maintains that the tax is necessary to not only keep the Parks and Recreation Department operating at a high standard, but that it is needed to keep it going at all. Without the tax, Cochran said the department would only be able to operate until January of 2018. The department is funded primarily from the millage, along with supplemental funds from the parish’s general fund budget.
“This millage is what funds the bulk of our Parks and Recreation Department,” Cochran said. “Having to cancel programs and the maintenance of parks throughout the parish would be a worst case scenario for us and residents.”The department oversees maintenance of 52 parks within the parish and nearly 50 programs and activities for local adult, senior, youth and special needs residents (sports leagues, Senior Olympics and youth summer camps are examples among the many).
Some of the attractions located at parish parks include boat launches, multi-use paths, the Ormond Spray Park and the Edward A. Dufresne Community Center.
“The Parks and Recreation Department impacts virtually all of our residents,” Cochran said. “Along with an excellent public school system and sheriff’s office, we feel that our parks and recreation program is a major highlight to draw visitors, businesses and potential residents looking to move to our community.
“Our Parks and Recreation Department enhances the quality of life in our community and we are continuously improving our services.”
Voters will also decide on a millage for the St. Charles Council on Aging.
The millage funding the Council on Aging would move from .98 to 1 mill. That money is collected to improve, maintain, construct and operate facilities and create programs for the elderly.
The Council on Aging receives 71 percent of its budget from the money collected from the millage, and much like Parks and Recreation, if voters decline to approve the millage proposal, the agency would suffer a significant scale back of operations.
“We wouldn’t be able to serve nearly as many seniors,” said Sharon Walters, the assistant director of the Council on Aging. “Only 19 percent of our funds come from the federal and state level, and that could be cut at any time. It’s very necessary, and if it’s removed, we’d have to start cutting services.”
The Council on Aging offers programs for senior citizens that include exercise, transportation, homemaker, personal care, medical alert and legal assistance.
Early voting is set for 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. daily Nov. 26, and Nov. 28 – Dec. 3 at the Registrar of Voters Office within the Courthouse, 15045 River Road in Hahnville, and the Arterbury Building, 14564 River Road in New Sarpy before Dec. 10 election day.