LIVINGSTON – Parish council members made one last push for a proposal to fund gravity drainage districts before the measure voters in two areas make the final decision Nov. 18.
Councilmen Shane Mack and Jeff Ard discussed the proposals during the Nov. 9 meeting of the Livingston Parish Council.
“This is not just another tax,” Mack said. “It’s an investment in the future of our parish four of children and grandchildren, and an opportunity to improve the quality of life in the parish we live in.”
If approved, it would mark the first time Livingston Parish has ever had dedicated funding for gravity drainage. It would create a funding mechanism for 80 percent of the parish whose districts lack a revenue source.
The plan for District 6 asks voters to approve two propositions – a 5-mill property tax and a half-cent sales tax. The area covers the portion of Walker north of Interstate 12, eastward to the Tangipahoa Parish line.
The proposal would not include the City of Walker, which operates its own drainage program. It would also exclude the Livingston Parish Industrial Park.
Districts 6 and 7 are the two of Livingston Parish's five drainage districts which do not have a source of funding. District 7 includes 53 percent of Livingston Parish, and District 6 encompasses around 27 percent.
The areas around Denham Springs, Walker and Watson are the only funded gravity drainage districts.
If approved, the millage would funnel around $300,000 per year. The sales tax would generate approximately $450,000.
“Everybody in the parish is paying for gravity drainage, but the problem on the east side has always been homestead exemption – there’s no money out here, so you have to keep going back to landowners for more money, more money,” Ard said. “That’s why we broke up with a sales tax, showing we’re trying to make everyone pay, everyone pitches in, and get the west side of the parish to see we’re putting in our share and we’re working together to take care of Livingston Parish as a whole to work on our drainage.”
The resolution for District 7 calls for an eight-mill tax for the area from Walker South, into the Port Vincent, French Settlement, Maurepas and Springfield.
The millage would generate approximately $900,000 per year, according to Larry O'Neil, chairman of District 7.
"It's basically one district for the north of Interstate 12 and another for the south side," Mack said. "Many great things can be achieved for this parish once this is established.”
For District 6, residents with $100,000 in assessed value would pay $12.50 per year, while a $150,000 assessment would yield $37.50 annually. A $200,000 assessment would cost the taxpayer $62.50 per year.
In District 7, the $100,000 assessment would trigger a $20 payment per year, while an assessed value of $150,000 would cost the taxpayer $60 annually. A $200,000 assessment would add $100 to the annual tax bill.
The tax revenue would provide dedicated funding for equipment to clean ditches, along with money to ante up for matching funds required on federal grants. Revenue from the millage would exclusively by the individual district, and not for projects in other parts of the parish.
Money in the districts would go exclusively to projects in those respective areas, as required by state law, said Mack, who represents portions of both districts.
“This is not a parishwide tax – it’s specifically within those districts,” he said. “It would go to fix drainage problems in people’s backyards in those districts."
The millage comes on the heels of the March and August floods in 2016. Mack hopes constituents will remember the severity when the items come up for the vote.
"I thought we'd never see another flood like we saw in March, but five months later, we had it all over again – and much worse," he said. "I'm not sure how we could've minimized the impact, but a master plan would've helped.”
It’s not only council members who hope for its passage. Dedicated funds for parishwide drainage would provide more consistent cleaning of ditches and byways – and without using money to pay for it, said Livingston Parish Public Works Director Sam Digirolomo.
“Those areas take in a lot of water, as much as anyone else,” he said. “The funded districts we have in place now have been a great help to public works, but having this altogether with really help us in the future.
“With the growth of the areas without drainage, it’s almost a must that we have funded gravity drainage,” Digirolomo said. “I hope for the sake of those areas that it passes.”
District 6 has operated for several years, but as a non-funded entity. Voters nixed a millage proposal for the district several years ago.