Upgrades on the line in Saturday election
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012
By ROBIN SHANNON
LAPLACE – Although there are no major political races on the ballot, Saturday’s election includes several important tax and bond measures for both St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes.
Voters in St. John will cast ballots on six measures, while those in St. Charles will decide on two. If approved, none of the propositions on the ballot will result in a tax increase. All involve renewals or rededications of existing millages.
St. John Parish is seeking a 10-year renewal of two, 1-mill property tax referendums. One is dedicated to the operation of the parish’s senior citizens center, while the other helps the parish operate its ARC facility for disabled residents. Each of those referendums generates about $360,000 a year. There is also a 4.83-mill property tax for road lighting up for renewal.
Voters will also decide whether to allow the parish to rededicate 3 mills of the road lighting tax to the parish’s recreation and animal control budgets, with 2.25 mills going to recreation and .75 mills going to animal shelter operations.
St. John Parish President Natalie 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 $830,000 a year to its budget.
The rededication for animal control would bring an additional $262,500 into the department. Robottom said the move will help the parish take animal control off the public works budget, which currently contributes about $237,000 to animal control.
The St. John School Board has its own rededication on the ballot as it will ask voters to rededicate an existing 2 mills of property tax to allow the district to borrow money for maintenance and construction projects.
If approved, the rededication will allow the district to borrow $11.6 million for capital improvements. Many of those projects were left out of a $46 million bond issue approved by voters in November 2008. The 2-mill tax is currently dedicated to paying the district’s debt; however, the millage is no longer needed for that purpose and will expire at the end of the year if not dedicated for another use.
In St. Charles Parish, the School Board is asking voters to approve a $45 million bond issue to expand and renovate schools. The bonds would be paid off using the 5.86 mills the district already levies for debt service. Plans for the money include new wings at several schools to reduce the district’s reliance on portable buildings, as well as renovations at several of its campuses.
St. Charles Parish Hospital also is asking voters to allow it to borrow $15 million to build an after-hours clinic, an outpatient center and a cardiac catheter lab among other improvements.
The loan would be repaid using an existing 3.16-mill property tax dedicated to hospital maintenance.
In St. James, voters in Gramercy will decide a runoff for District 3 alderman between Craig Calcagno and Rhonda Lee. The winner will fill the spot vacated by Alvin “Shark” St. Pierre, who left the board for the St. James Council.