On the Ballot

Bureau of Governmental Research backs Jefferson Parish water and sewer tax proposals

By Kaylee Poche

Source: Gambit

March 2, 2021

The independent nonprofit group Bureau of Governmental Research is backing two Jefferson Parish tax proposals, one for its water system and one for its sewage system, according to a report released Tuesday.

The proposals are the parish’s plan to replace taxes set to expire at the end of 2022, and voters will either give them a thumbs up or down in the upcoming March 20 election.

Both 10-year taxes have a maximum rate of 5 mills, meaning for every $100,000 a property is assessed above the homestead exemption, an owner paying both taxes would pay up to $100 in taxes annually, about $33.10 than they currently do, according to BGR. The Jefferson Parish Council would decide how much of the 5 mills they would like to tax each year.

With the potential increase in funding, parish officials have several projects in mind, including replacing the oldest parts of the parish’s water treatment plant, which has been around for nearly a century. According to BGR, those replacements, along with subsurface pipe replacements, would lower the chance of boil water advisories in the parish.

“The proposed taxes account for a critical portion of the funding required to operate, maintain and upgrade Jefferson Parish’s water and sewer systems,” the report said. “The parish’s plans for the systems reflect the findings of multiple studies and prioritize investments that are necessary to sustain residents’ predictable access to clean water and a sanitary environment.”

In its report, BGR also noted that though it supports both the proposals, the group’s position is that the parish should start drawing more of its funds for infrastructure improvement projects by raising fees on users — something the group said it’s been recommending since 2013. Currently, user fees and property taxes fund the parish’s water system, while user fees, property tax and dedicated sales tax fund the sewer system.

“Raising user fees, which can more fairly distribute system costs among consumers, offers the best opportunity for closing the funding gap,” the report said. “This step is overdue as a better practice to adequately fund the water and sewer systems.”

The current water tax rate is 3.33 mills, while the existing sewage tax is 3.36 mills. If approved and set at its maximum rate, the parish would get more than $6 million in additional revenue, bringing its budget up to more than $18 million. The sewer tax would generate more than $5 million more in revenue, increasing its budget to more than $15 million.

Previously, in 2013, voters rejected 5-mill rate caps but accepted 3.5-mill caps.

The water tax proposal affects the unincorporated part of Jefferson Parish, the municipalities of Kenner, Harahan, Jean Lafitte and Grand Isle and the Timberlane subdivision in Gretna. The sewer tax covers the unincorporated portion of the parish, Jean Lafitte and the Timberlane subdivision in Gretna.

Both propositions will appear on the March 20 ballot. Early voting is from March 6 to March 13.

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