On the Ballot

Commentary: Here are our recommendations on Parks & Rec, JP millage propositions

By Gambit Commentary

Source: Gambit

April 17, 2019

VOTERS IN NEW ORLEANS AND JEFFERSON PARISH WILL GO TO THE POLLS ON MAY 4 — during Jazz Fest — to consider several important property tax millages.

In New Orleans, the sole item on the ballot is the proposed renewal of 6.31 mills for parks and recreation facilities. In Jefferson, voters will decide whether to renew an existing 1-mill tax for the parish coroner’s office and whether to approve a new, 7.9-mill tax to fund public school teacher pay raises. Early voting begins Sat., April 20 and continues through Sat., April 27. Here are our recommendations:

New Orleans Parks & Rec: YES — For decades, public support for parks and recreation facilities in New Orleans has reflected a piecemeal approach. The Parks and Recreation Initiative represents the first real attempt to put four key “quality of life” agencies on balanced fiscal footing. Those agencies are: the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC); the Parks & Parkways commission; New Orleans City Park; and the Audubon  Commission. Of those, City Park has never gotten a penny of dedicated local funding.

This is not a tax increase. It would merely renew an existing set of millages. NORDC and Parks & Parkways currently split a 3-mill property tax, while Audubon has a pair of millages totaling 3.31 mills. All three millages expire in 2021. Rather than renew them individually, the proposition would combine them for a single, 6.31-mill renewal for 20 years that would allocate the proceeds more equitably among these agencies — including, for the first time ever, City Park. Audubon would see a 42 percent reduction in property tax revenues while the other agencies would see significant increases. We urge our readers in New Orleans to vote YES on this millage.

Jefferson Parish Forensic Medical Facilities: YES — Jefferson Parish Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich seeks renewal of a 1-mill property tax to maintain the services his office provides. Those services include operating a nationally accredited forensic facility, providing mental health and drug addiction services as well as suicide prevention programs, overseeing involuntary commitments of mentally ill and incapacitated citizens, and staffing the parish mental health center. This is not a new tax; it would merely extend an existing tax for 10 years. We urge our readers in Jefferson to vote YES on this proposition.

Jefferson Parish Schools: YES — This is a new tax, but it merits voter approval. The parish school board has already adopted a pay plan that would use the additional $29 million in revenue to boost teacher pay to levels that are competitive with other area school districts, particularly for teachers just beginning their careers. This is vitally important to recruiting and retaining qualified teachers in public schools, which in turn helps boost student achievement. We urge our readers to vote YES.

All three propositions have earned the support of the non-partisan Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) as well as widespread support among business and civic leaders in both parishes. We are happy to add our endorsement as well.

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