Rededication of St. John millages up to the voters

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 31, 2011



LAPLACE – St. John the Baptist Parish officials are hoping to bolster the parish’s consistently underfunded recreation and animal control departments through a reshuffling of some of the parish’s property tax allocations. The matter will be put to the voters and appear on the April 21 election ballot.

On Tuesday, the parish council approved a resolution calling for a special election to renew and rededicate existing property tax millages on the parish’s tax rolls. Parish President Natalie Robottom said the tax rate would stay the same, but money collected would be shifted to help improve the recreation and animal control budgets, which are annually subsidized by the parish’s general fund and public works department.

St. John Parish Bond Attorney Hugh Martin explained the proposal would rededicate 3 mills of property tax currently allocated to road lighting and debt services to be put toward the parish’s recreation department and animal shelter. Martin said 2.25 mills would be dedicated to recreation and .75 mills to animal control.

Also included in the resolution is the planned renewal of two 1-mill taxes for the ARC of St. John and the St. John Council on aging senior citizen centers. Martin said the millage propositions are to be renewed for another 10 years.

Robottom said the millage shift would produce a more stable funding source for the recreation department, whose $569,000 budget is nearly completely funded through video poker revenue, which is experiencing a gradual decline. The property tax revenues would add more than $780,000 a year.

“Expanding recreational options in the parish was a constant theme almost universally in the fall elections,” Robottom said. “This would give us a funding mechanism to assist existing programs and expand new ones.”

Robottom said a key element of the recreation department’s future is the opening of the parish’s new gymnasium at Regala Park in Reserve. The council approved substantial completion of the $2.3 million facility, funded by a 2009 bond issue, at Tuesday’s meeting. She said the new funding would assist the parish in maintaining Regala and other parks on the east and west banks of the parish.

“There are pools, tennis courts and other facilities that are in need of maintenance,” Robottom said. “We would like to offer dancing for girls and additional activities for senior citizens. The new gym will allow us to do that.”

Robottom also talked of adding soccer, football and a more substantial summer camp. She also said the parish intends to continue partnerships with the parish school system like in neighboring parishes.

“St. Charles Parish doesn’t own any gyms, but they work with their school system,” she said. “We should be able to continue that partnership.”

The rededication for animal control would bring an additional $262,500 into the department. Robottom said the move would help the parish take animal control off the public works budget, which currently contributes about $237,000 to animal control.

“We want to do what we can to increase adoptions from the shelter and educate residents on proper care of their animals,” Robottom said.

Robottom said one downside to the rededications would be that it will reduce the amount of money that the parish can borrow in the future without raising taxes from $21 million to $11.6 million.