Editor’s note: John Dupont is recovering from the flu. While he recovers, a look back in the files of The News finds the topic of mosquito abatement was in his Random Thoughts on Oct. 28, 2017.
Election results in recent years have proven that it takes a draconian effort for voters to approve a tax, regardless of the benefit.
Livingston Parish Council members and board leaders for two gravity drainage districts know they face an upriver battle with the passages for taxes to fund the districts.
The plan for District 6 would ask 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 proposals for the property tax and sales tax will go on the ballot separately. projected to generate $250,000 and $450,000 per year, respectively.
The resolution for District 7 calls for an eight-mill ad valorem tax for the area from Walker south into French Settlement, Killian, Maurepas, Port Vincent and Springfield – an area that spans 238,000 acres and 360 square miles.
The district – which covers 53 percent of the parish – has operated as a non-funded entity since its inception just over a year ago.
Revenue from the millages would cover the costs of machinery and personnel to clean ditches and remove debris from byways on a regular basis. The money would benefit only the respective district.
Passage of the millage would allow, for the first time, gravity drainage throughout the parish. It would allow regular cleaning without having to dip into other funding sources to provide better drainage.
At the same time the officials promote the district millage, Parish Council members have chosen to revisit mosquito abatement. The parish offered the service for 11 years before two ill-fated tax attempts brought it to a halt.
Council members have since formed a district to study the process, the effects, and feasibility of mosquito abatement.
They have not proposed a tax election, and the failure of the millage on two attempts makes chances of a third vote lukewarm at best.
The move worries Parish President Layton Ricks, who believes it may derail attempts at funded gravity drainage districts.
He fears the mere mention of a tax – one which will possibly never reach voters – will guarantee failure of the millage proposals for the two districts.
It’s hard to argue against discussion of mosquito abatement in the wake of a hotter-than-normal summer with above-average rainfall and an active hurricane season. It created the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes and drew the usual round of complaints from residents about what the parish should do to eliminate them.
Ricks is correct that anything that involves the word “tax” – existent or otherwise – is enough for voters to squash any proposal that goes to the polls.
A proposal to fund drainage districts makes perfect sense as Livingston Parish seeks to keep up with neighboring areas in the residential growth spurt. Clean ditches and a better flow of water yield an improved quality of life, or at least it would seem.
But residents are tax weary as the cost of living continues to skyrocket.
The increased cost of healthcare, the slowdown on cost-of-living raises and the overall instability of the economy play a big role in tax defeats.
It’s unfortunate, however, that voters often sacrifice an improved quality of life in the process.
The fate of the tax will answer two questions for Districts 5 and 6.
They may decide that a tax that provides better drainage equates to money well spent.
Or, they may conclude that they can’t miss what they’ve never had.
What they don’t need is distractions from the issue at hand.
The focus by the Parish Council from here until Nov. 18 should hinge upon the tax proposals at hand – and not one that may never go before the voters.