LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – When they go to the polls on Saturday, Calcasieu Parish voters will decide the fate of two tax propositions they rejected earlier this year.
One proposed tax would help with the maintenance of parish buildings, including the courthouse and jail facilities; the second would fund road improvements and garbage collection in unincorporated parts of the parish (except Moss Bluff/Gillis).
Though both propositions involve a word not at all popular this election year (tax), Calcasieu Parish officials are quick to point out that neither proposition is a tax increase, rather a continuation of the taxes parish residents are already paying.
"The timing on any tax right now is not good," said Calcasieu Parish Administrator Bryan Beam. "We understand very much that this is a hard time for the public."
Courthouse and Jail Maintenance
In May, voters rejected, by a vote of 57% to 43%, a 5.27 mill courthouse and jail maintenance tax.
This time around, parish officials have done away with the 5.27 mill proposal and are asking voters to renew the current 3.27 mill property tax for courthouse and jail maintenance. The tax would be homestead-exempt, meaning homeowners who own a home valued at $75,000 would pay no property tax. A homeowner who owns a home valued at $150,000 would pay $2.04 per month or $24.53 per year.
"It's just very important that the people renew it for us and it is money that we need to operate our facilities efficiently," said Calcasieu Parish Sheriff Tony Mancuso. "We had to replace all the doors in the jail. That was a $700,000 project. If we didn't have this [tax] we would not be able to pay for things like that and of course the people want us to keep criminals behind bars. If the doors don't work, then we have a tough time doing that."
Should the courthouse and jail maintenance tax proposition fail, the parish would have to get the money elsewhere, since it's required by state law to maintain these facilities.
"If it fails we're talking about $4.5 million roughly that would not be coming into the parish for these services," said Beam.
Beam said the parish would have to take money from the general fund, which would mean less funding for other services like emergency preparedness, animal control and fire training.
"There's only enough funds in that fund balance to go maybe two years at most for those type [of] services," said Beam.
Road Improvements and Garbage Collection
The road improvements/garbage collection tax proposition failed by just eight votes in May. The 1.50% sales tax would be used for roads and garbage collection in unincorporated parts of the parish (except Moss Bluff/Gillis). In addition, the proposition also includes the creation of two waste drop-off centers for all parish residents.
Should this proposition fail, road maintenance funding as approved by voters in 1992 would end in 2012 and residents in incorporated areas (again, except Moss Bluff/Gillis) could end up paying anywhere from $16 to $20 per month or up to $240 per year for garbage collection.
Parish officials are hoping voters avoid this and vote in favor of both proposition on Saturday.
For more information about both of the tax propositions, click here.