Jefferson Parish tax renewals on the ballot, with new taxes proposed for local fire departments
By Faimon A. Roberts III
Source: The Advocate
October 24, 2018
Jefferson Parish voters will take up three parishwide tax renewals when they go to the polls Nov. 6, while voters in Grand Isle and parts of the west bank also will vote on taxes for their local fire departments.
The parishwide millages are all set to run for 10 years beginning in 2021 and include 3.5 mills for juvenile detention and justice, 2.26 mills for human and animal health, and 5 mills for drainage projects.
The 3.5 mills for juvenile justice will be used to help fund the operations at the parish’s 52-bed juvenile detention facility in Harvey and run the parish’s juvenile probation office, according to Roy Juncker, Jefferson Parish director of the detention center.
The tax is expected to generate about $12 million per year.
The center is at about 50 percent capacity, Junker said, but officials expect an influx next year when a state law will require that 17-year-olds be incarcerated in the juvenile system instead of with adults.
That change likely will take up another 12-13 beds, Junker said. The parish is not expecting to have to add capacity to the detention center for those inmates, but it likely will need to hire five more guards.
The millage also helps cover probation for juveniles as well as other services in the juvenile justice program.
The 2.26 mill property tax for human and animal health is split among three agencies: 64 percent of the revenue goes to the animal control, 26 percent to the human services authority and 10 percent to the parish’s health units. The tax is expected to provide about $7.8 million per year.
The funds provide about 86 percent of the animal control department’s funding, said Robin Beaulieu, director of the department.
More than 9,700 animals come into contact with the shelter or animal control every year, she said, and the parish has a desperate need to replace its 40-year-old east bank shelter.
About a quarter of the millage goes toward the parish’s human services authority, which provides mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as providing services to those with developmental disabilities, said Tammy Valenti of the Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority.
The final 10 percent of the millage is used to help support the parish’s two health units.
The third millage is a 5-mill tax renewal for drainage. The funds are used to repay the government as part of the SELA program, in which the federal government provides funding for flood-protection projects, but local governments pay a portion of the costs back over time.
In Jefferson Parish, the SELA program has helped construct about 60 projects in Jefferson Parish, including Harahan’s Pump to the River station. The parish owes the federal government in the neighborhood of $183 million as the local match for those projects, said Jose Gonzalez, the parish’s interim director of public works.
The SELA program has been instrumental in helping reduce the risk of flooding in Jefferson Parish, Gonzalez said.
The Bureau of Governmental Research released a report Wednesday endorsing all three tax renewals.
In addition to those measures, voters in Grand Isle and in the west bank communities of Waggaman, Nine Mile Point, Bridge City and Avondale also will vote on millages to fund their local volunteer fire departments.
In Grand Isle, voters will entertain a measure to renew a 21.1-mill tax, beginning in 2021. That tax is expected to generate about $1 million per year, and will be used to fund all operations of the department.
On the west bank, voters are being asked to vote on a 25-mill tax to fund the five volunteer companies that make up Jefferson Parish Fire Protection District No. 7.
Elvis Smith, the president and assistant chief of the Live Oak Manor fire department, one of the five in District 7, said the money would be used for everything from payroll to new trucks to building upkeep.
The tax is expected to bring in about $3.8 million per year.
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