It’s easy to see why Livingston Parish Council Chairman Shane Mack would propose a “robbing Peter to pay Paul” scenario.       
Before the Parish Council meeting this past Thursday, Mack had discussed his idea with other councilman as well as the director of the library before the meeting, and all had urged against it.
His idea? Take 3 mills of the 10-mill property tax that funds the library and rededicate it to drainage. The initial, roughly $1.5 million in outlay would be used for the drainage portion of the master plan, and then to invest in future projects devised by that plan.
Unfortunately, that’s where it falls flat for two reasons. First is the reason why Mack proposed it in the first place – he lives in an unfunded gravity drainage district, whose funding proposal failed in the fall 2017 due to lack of vision or budget.
It would be difficult, therefore, to convince the majority of parish residents living on the west side to agree to the funding mechanism for parishwide drainage implements, mostly because gravity drainage districts 1, 2, and 5 (which serve Denham, Watson, and Walker respectively) are already funded.
Not to mention funding for the larger watersheds, which include the Amite, are state- and federal-level funding projects because local revenues just aren’t great enough.
So why don’t those two districts take their portion of the 3-mill tax and use it, voting on it at the polls? Because the tax base isn’t there. For the large district in the south, which poses problems for Gravity Drainage District 5, and the unfunded district which encompasses Mack’s district around Albany, more than 60 percent of residences can use homestead exemption to get straight out of the property tax portion.
Without a designated retail center anywhere in either district, it makes raising money for such ventures nearly impossible.
The proposal in the fall 2017 showed revenues in just the few hundreds of thousands of dollars for drainage districts 6 and 7, should they pass. Nothing at which to scoff at, to be clear, but that money pile doesn’t even come close to covering the geographic area presented by both of those districts.
Gravity Drainage District 1, which covers about half the area that District 6 would have (Springfield, Killian, Colyell, and south Livingston), collects roughly $2.5 million per year and still has to apply for grants to get the job done.
So even if those unfunded districts took all of those 3 mills from the library, $1.5 million per year, it’s still inadequate to fully serve those two areas which are, by the square mile, huge.
That leads to the second reason – why take away from what is one of the best run entities in the parish, next to schools, to inadequately serve an area? That seems ill-advised in a time when the library system does so much to benefit the community.
The library collects roughly $5 million per year and between its service of books, computers, subscription offerings, literacy classes, camps, and the list goes on the library and its board act as a good steward of taxpayer money.
They even help with elections.
So, Shane Mack’s attempt to raise money for his area makes sense, but in the end, it wasn’t the right direction and the residents of unfunded gravity drainage districts 6 and 7 will have to try again.
Because for as long as those groups have been fighting obstacles like zoning, which is desperately needed on the western side of the parish, those districts will be hard-pressed to get citizens in the west to give up tax dollars to fund their drainage.
J. McHugh David is editor and publisher of the Livingston Parish News.

(1) comment


Comments such as “...their drainage” are short sighted and only serve to cause more divide in the already overly divided populous of Livingston parish as a whole. The truth of the matter is that the drainage problem belongs to all of us. It’s not your drainage and my drainage, it’s our drainage and it’s our problem. As a parish, we need to figure out how to fund these unfunded drainage districts because water has to flow from some of the funded districts down thru the unfunded districts. The drainage meeting held in Walker about a month ago, really opened my eyes to just how deeply connected a drainage issue in the northern part of the parish is to a blockage in the southern part of the parish and beyond.

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