This Thursday, the Livingston Parish Council will be considering a $53 million budget, including $1 million in extra sales tax revenue.

In most cases sales tax grows by default, simply because population increases and new businesses pay into the fund. For instance – did you know that the Parish Council’s sales tax revenues have grown to almost $1 million more, per month, than they were in 2001?

That’s not that hard to fathom, if you consider everything that’s opened since that point – Juban Crossing, Bass Pro, new restaurants, and more commercial developments including strip malls and stand-alone businesses.

But that growth is simply one part of the equation. It’s important to consider that, in order for sales taxes to be collected, residents must spend the money. That has made all the difference in the world for Livingston Parish as retail follows rooftops, and the parish is gaining at an exponential rate in that department.

Currently, almost 200 houses are being sold per month in Livingston Parish – a growth rate of 600 people per 30 days, with an average of three people per household.

That’s a staggering number when extrapolated across a year – 7,200 new residents in Livingston Parish every year. Before the Great Flood, estimates rested at roughly 135,000 residents in Livingston Parish. Take away 5,000 or so who left for good and add 15,000 in growth – now the parish is staring down the 150,000 pinnacle … and beyond.

That places Livingston Parish squarely in the realm of the second-largest parish in the nine-parish Baton Rouge metro area. Livingston was already ahead of Ascension by nearly 10,000 people, and growth there has had to slow in order to cope with the demands of growth and lack of space ready for development, due to zoning and wetlands designations.

For a while, Tangipahoa and Livingston were neck-and-neck – but soon the great “Free State” will blow past any of its population competition.

The reasons for such growth have been discussed before – great schools, affordable real estate, and good law enforcement. Throw in the new trend of plenty of places to shop near home and the hot bed of growth continues.

Why are people moving to the Baton Rouge metro area? Well, the commercial sector in Baton Rouge is growing, as well as industry along the Mississippi River. Livingston is the best place to raise a family in the area.

Interestingly enough, though, growth is a double-edged sword for local officials. While it usually means more revenue from sales taxes and property taxes – as has been the case for many years, leading to huge budgets for the sheriff, parish, School Board, and even Denham Springs – growth can be painful.

Keeping an eye on budgets and how local governments spend money will be paramount in the next three to five years. The Livingston Parish School Board took a substantial financial hit from the flood, but fights by the Washington, D.C., congressional delegation helped keep it from financial ruin. However, most of the growth has bared down upon those Denham Springs schools and the eastern side of the parish, with Watson and Walker taking most of the overflow.

Maybe that’s why the sheriff requested a half-cent sales tax as opposed to 1/8? Increased staffing on the eastern side, where roughly 88 percent of residents live in unincorporated areas, has become necessary. But why not say that?

The parish will face the challenge of roads, infrastructure, and cooperative endeavors to handle drainage. There’s already a gap between road and drainage needs, and the current population – can the parish, at the least, keep the gap stable as population booms? Time will tell.

The School Board faces down the barrel of maintaining that excellent standard with stout teacher-to-student ratios.

Denham Springs, as the major gateway into Baton Rouge, will face levels of traffic never before seen and will have to budget for infrastructure adaptations and changes.

Hard levels of spending on roads, schools, and law enforcement will be necessary to keep those reasons for moving to Livingston Parish valid – let’s just hope consumers continue to spend money inside the great “Free State.” For now, hold on to your butts, Livingston Parish – if you thought the growth up until this point was unbelievable, just wait.

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