Thomas talks sales tax at Rotary meeting

Published 11:45 pm Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Parish President Richard Thomas continued his push to inform citizens about the status of Washington Parish finances and the upcoming sales tax proposition vote at last week’s Franklinton Rotary Club meeting.

He said the parish will have a one third of 1 cent sales tax increase on the Oct. 19 ballot. The parish is statutorily mandated by the state to fund the entities that fall under it, such as the criminal court fund and the Sheriff’s Office, and Thomas said no funding has been added for that in the last 30 years.

The tax up for vote is dedicated to the funding of the parish civil, criminal and juvenile justice system, Thomas said. The tax would be used for that specific purpose and would not go into the general fund for use however the parish wanted, he said.

Nobody likes taxes, Thomas said, but he sees the sales tax as the fairer tax, as opposed to a property tax, where only some people would pay.

Thomas said he has cut expenses in his office 45 percent. During a recent meeting with Bobby Jindal, he told the governor, “You can’t find another agency in the state of Louisiana that’s cut their office 45 percent,” he said.

Thomas said he is obligated and sworn to keep the parish financially afloat, and the parish government ended last year with $92 in its general fund.

Mike Gill, a Rotary board member and president of the Franklinton Area and Washington economic development foundations, told Rotarians he supports the “tax and the cause.” He said if someone doesn’t pay their bills at their house, their credit score will go down. It is the same way with the parish government, he said.

If the parish cannot pay its bills it will lose its bond rating, so when it gets ready to sell bonds to help with law enforcement or building a recreation facility or any other purpose, it won’t be able to, he said.

“If our government is not on sound financial ground, everybody loses,” Gill said.

He provided an example of how much the tax would be on a car purchase.

“You spend $10,000 on a car, that’s $33,” Gill said. “You’re going to finance it for 72 months. Your note’s going to go up half a penny.”

Residents within the town of Franklinton cannot vote on the tax, as the town is maxed out, but Gill told the Rotary members they need to let their family members and friends know about the tax.

Gill said the sales tax is needed, or the parish will lose public services. He said it is at the point that if the tax doesn’t pass, it will be a desperate situation for Washington Parish. If the parish loses its bond rating, he said, it will not be able to compete with its neighbors.

Early voting will run Saturday, Oct. 5 through Saturday, Oct. 12, with the exception of Sunday, Oct. 6, Thomas said.

It will take place at the Registrar of Voters office in the parish courthouse and at Northshore Technical Community College, Sullivan Campus, in Bogalusa, from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. in each location.

Thomas noted that the day of the general election, Oct. 19, is the Saturday of the fair. He encouraged people to take part in early voting and then go enjoy the fair.