Item to benefit vets on ballot

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011



LAPLACE – In addition to deciding on a full slate of state and local political races, voters in St. John the Baptist Parish will go to the polls Saturday to decide whether to raise the homestead exemption in the parish for disabled veterans because of military service.

The initiative is part of a constitutional amendment approved last November by voters statewide that allows the homestead exemption to double for veterans who are rated as having a 100 percent service-connected disability by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That exemption is extended to surviving spouses of the veteran if it was in effect prior to the veteran’s death and the spouse remains the owner of the property.

The current homestead exemption for all property owners is $75,000. The measure on the ballot would raise the exemption for disabled veterans to $150,000.

Records from the State Department of Veterans Affairs show St. John Parish has 3,556 veterans living in the parish. The number of veterans eligible for the doubled exemption could not be released because of privacy issues, according to a Veterans Affairs spokesperson. In pitching the measure to the St. John Parish Council, Assessor Whitney Joseph said the additional exemption’s impact on the parish budget would be “minimal.”

A similar measure was approved by voters in St. Charles Parish in April, and one is also being considered in St. James Parish.

Although the election is Saturday, a large amount of voters across all three River Parishes have already cast ballots during last week’s early voting period, according to numbers from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office.

Final voter turnout numbers show that 4,045 of St. John Parish’s 29,205 registered voters cast early ballots for Saturday’s primary. In St. James Parish, 1,690 of the parish’s 15,606 registered voters participated in early voting. In St. Charles Parish, 2,615 of the parish’s 33,743 registered voters turned out early.