In The News › Jefferson Parish recreation tax up for voters’ decision Saturday

Jefferson Parish recreation tax up for voters’ decision Saturday

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

December 7, 2016

Eighteen participants in Jefferson Parish’s youth athletics program filled the Bridge City Playground gymnasium one day last week, eager to play basketball. Practice lasted only an hour, but the lack of air conditioning created pools of sweat on their brows and backs.

Officials say $1 million is needed to install air conditioning at the Bridge City gym and the one at Delta Playground in Metairie. But money for the improvements — and for 93 percent of the basic operations of the Jefferson Parks and Recreation Department — hinges on renewal of a $20.3 million property tax on Saturday’s ballot (Dec. 10).

Voters in all unincorporated areas and in Jean Lafitte will consider renewing the tax before it expires Dec. 31. The renewal would take effect in 2017, again authorizing 10 mills.

In 2016, the Parish Council has set the tax rate lower, at 7.8 mills. It’s up to the council each year to set the tax rate, at any level up to what voters have approved.

At 10 mills, the tax would cost the owner of a $200,000 home with a homestead exemption $125 a year. That’s an increase from the current $97 for a 7.8-mill tax.

More than 300 people work in the Recreation Department. They are responsible for:

• 28 playgrounds
• 28 parks
• More than 2,500 acres of property
• Youth and adult athletics
• Senior citizen activities
• Programs for disabled people.

Parish officials would also direct money to cover pending operating costs, including the $750,000 per year to operate and maintain walking trails, a new boat launch and a new recreation center in Metairie for disabled people.

Should the tax not be renewed, the Bureau of Governmental Research said, Jefferson “would force widespread closures” of several parks and playgrounds. Officials have not made plans to use the money to build more parks, but the parish already is faced with operating and maintaining the new Westwego youth sports complex that is expected to be built and initially funded by the state.

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